Five long months had passed since that day in central Australia and, much to her annoyance; Lily’s normally tight stomach had ballooned outwards so that she was becoming more and more like her beer-bellied father with each passing day.
“Of course you still look beautiful,” assured an exasperated James every time she questioned her new form’s appearance but his protests were becoming more and more lackluster and were falling on increasingly deaf ears.
Her mother had also tried in vein to convince her that labour was not as painful as it was made out to be and while James was grateful for her attempting to clam Lily (who became extremely irritable and grumpy whenever the subject of the child was raised), he was also growing weary of his mother-in-law always being there.
There had been time after painful time when he had been in the mood for some one-on-one time with his wife but was forced aside by Mrs. Evans appearing, as if from nowhere, and fussing about Lily as if she was on her deathbed. However annoyed he had got with the women and there relentless wedding planning, he would take that any day.
“James!” Oh great. Yet another summons to the land of no return. “James, we need your help!”
“Coming,” he sighed as he hauled himself away from ‘SWEPT UP: Your Weekly Quidditch Guide’ and began stumping up the staircase leading to the first floor of Number 21 Godric’s Hollow.
James shuffled in and lightly coughed to announce his reluctant arrival.
“Ah James,” said the invader, not looking up from the huge book she was poring over. “Come and have at look at these,”
“What are they?” said James warily, remembering only too well the last time he’d been dragged into a conversation about cots that had led to him running from the room, several catalogues in hot pursuit.
“Baby names,” Lily said brightly, “We’ve marked a few pages for you to look at while we go to St. Mungo’s to see how my little lad’s doing.” James raised and eyebrow at this; not only did they not yet know the gender of the baby (unless he had been even more left out than he thought), but why was he, the father of the child, not accompanying her to the hospital?
“Um…” he said, looking at page 829 but not really seeing the endless list of names. He wanted to talk about this, just not with Lily’s older, and less attractive, shadow stood there. “Lily, can I have a word please?”
“All right but be quick,” she warned as her mother pursed her lips in disapproval. James took her hand and lead through into the spare bedroom, usually reserved for Sirius when he hadn’t secured a girl for the night and was a bit lonely.
“What’s up James?” asked Lily impatiently as James chewed his words over,
“Why is she going with you?” he put bluntly. Lily frowned and snapped back
“What?” James tried again,
“Well I’m your husband and the baby’s, who by the way could be a wizard or a witch, father so…”
“How do you know it won’t be a squib?” Lily cut in with just the hint of a smile on her lips,
“Lily!” James said, irritated, why could she not just let him talk? “My point is that I should be the one going with you and your mother should be the one looking through a book of baby names, making suggestions nobody will listen to anyway! I mean,” he said, slowing down now, “You can’t enjoy all this can you?”
Lily stayed silent for a time, watching Bathilda Bagshot (the batty but nice old woman from next door) hobble around her garden, occasionally pruning with her wand.
She had sensed these thoughts for about a week now and could not blame him. Her mother was incessant and just would not hear the word no. At first it had been nice, comforting she supposed that a person who had been through all of this before, had come to help her however, now Lily found herself yearning for the sanity of her husband, the deep softness of his voice and the warmth of his large, seeker’s hands.
“Come on then,” she said, her face snapping round to meet his gaze,
“What?” James said blankly, clearly bewildered – honestly, you give them what they want and they don’t even have the politeness to understand.
“Come on then,” she repeated taking his hand, “Let’s go but keep quiet.”
“You are joking, right?” he asked grinning
“No James I’m not, now shut up or my hag of a mother will have us separated by iron bars until the baby’s born.”
Unsurprisingly, St. Mungo’s was not busy. As Lily sat in the lobby, waiting for James to find out where they should go, she could only see three other people; two elderly women who had grave expressions on their faces and were not talking but exchanging frequent glances full of meaning. The other man was at the desk, talking to the welcome witch as James stood patiently behind.
The stranger did not appear to have anything wrong with him but James, who was clearly eavesdropping, looked over to her and grimaced pointing towards the man’s feet. Lily followed his finger and saw that it had been quite inaccurate to say that James was gesturing to the man’s feet. Where his feet should have been were no less than two potatoes, jutting out weirdly from beneath the jeans the man wore.
Lily hastily looked away, examining her own fingers feeling disgusted but very sorry for the poor man. She’d seen growth like that before and knew exactly what was coming for the man who was now hobbling awkwardly through the double doors which lead to the stairs.
It was an ailment she had experienced only once and had hoped never to witness its affects again. She had been visiting an ill friend in this very hospital, not two years ago, and had gotten lost on the way to the ward. Confused, she had ducked into the nearest ward to ask for help but on arrival in the room, she had seen only one person; a young girl lying asleep in the bed at the far end, next to the window.
At first, Lily could see nothing but as she stared at the child she saw something that struck her as not quite right. Curious (or stupid as she now thought), she had crept past the empty beds for a closer look.
The girl’s face was lightened by the morning sun which was beaming through the window however; it seemed she would never know because her young eyes had been obscured by her swollen cheeks. The flesh had taken on a muddy brown colour and Lily realized that what she had thought of as freckles were actually dull smudges and bruises Lily would have expected to find on vegetables in her garden, not on a young girl’s face.
Lily’s eyes moved slowly down to the unfortunate child’s lips but no comfort was to be found there for roots, many spindly vines, were slithering closer and closer towards the mouth. Some were already there; they had clamped themselves over her jaw.
It had taken all of Lily’s will power not to scream there and then, but she hadn’t, instead she ran, as fast as she had ever run before and she kept running until she reached the lobby again.
Lily had never found out the name for the illness, indeed she had done everything in her power to block it from her mind but now all she could think of was how that man would end up and the thought threatened to overwhelm her.
“Lily? Are you okay?” James had evidently found out where they should be. He sat down beside her and placed an arm around her shoulders. “Lily, there’s nothing you can do,” he said softly.
He had been like this last time; reassuring her that her guilt was baseless, trying to move her mind away from what she had seen but this time it would not be so easy.
“We have to go after him,” she said quietly but determinately, “I can’t just walk away now.” Tears flowed freely from her eyes which could not stop staring at the door through which the man had vanished, condemning himself to a hospital bed for the rest of his short life.
James looked at her and knew he would have to meet her in the middle with this one. Last time she had wanted to forget, she had been frightened of confronting her fear then but now her caring nature was overcoming that and he knew that prevented her going after that man would do far more harm than good.
“Okay, he said reluctantly, “But let’s go on the way back; we have an appointment,” Lily looked shocked and angry so James hurriedly continued “And anyway, they’ll have to do tests and stuff when he first arrives, we won’t be able to see him until a bit later so please let’s get the baby checked out and then we’ll go and see that poor soul – you wait here while I go and ask where he’s gone.”
The many blank corridors of St. Mungo’s were deserted, save for the occasional healer who would smile warmly at them. They walked in silence, hand-in-hand, each with their mind on different things, though both related back to person in the Warbeck ward on the third floor.
“Ah! Mr. and Mrs. Potter?” A tall healer asked them as the entered the ward. “Come straight through here. I’m healer Gilbert and I’ll be helping you check up on your little one.” Her grin faltered at their glum faces but she didn’t comment as she led them down another corridor and into a small room with just the one bed in it.
“Right,” she said when Lily had hopped up and James has clasped her hand again, “All that’s going to happen Mrs. Potter is I’m going to scan you over with my wand and then we’ll be able to check how you and the baby are doing, is that okay?”
Lily nodded, still not speaking, and lay back down on the bad so that healer Gilbert could circle her wand over the bump in Lily’s midriff.
“Good,” the thin-faced woman said when she had finished, “Now, I’m just going to get the image up for you, everything feels wonderful so far.”
She swung around, lifted her wand to point at a bare patch of wall and muttered something James could not hear. A moving image appeared, as brightly coloured as though it had been recorded outside on a bright summer’s day.
“Oh Merlin!” gasped Lily, speaking at last as she gawped at the film “Our baby!” Her fingers tightened around his as another tear formed in one of her green eyes.
“Is this it?” James asked stupidly, his own voice wavering slightly, “Is this what it was doing just now?” he gestured pointlessly towards Lily’s stomach.
“Just now?” Healer Gilbert asked, eyebrows raised, “No dear, this is what it’s doing right now.”
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