It wasn’t long until Lily did begin resembling the gingerbread biscuit Sirius had made on Christmas. By the end of January, Lily was looking for new clothes to wear that would accommodate the bulge on her stomach. She was just grateful she Alice to help her shop, as the woman was going through the same predicament. She could find clothes, but all seemed so dreadfully hideous. James did whatever he could to help his wife, but the mood swings the woman was having were catching him off guard every time. Lily could be sweet and entirely happy one moment and the next nothing he did would be enough and her short fuse would burn out far too quickly. If he was lucky, he would manage to get a head start running before the mood swung completely. Then there were the cravings. The cravings were the worst.
He had once ended up at his parents’ house at one in the morning, desperately pleading with them to part with their finest cut of mutton – something he despised and thought Lily did as well. Unfortunately he was wrong. The pregnant Lily loved mutton and wanted it at ridiculous hours of the night. His parents had been too sleepy and confused to argue that it was destined to be their dinner. Another frustration was that Lily felt useless when it came to the Order. She was a fighter. She wasn’t content to sit around while others went out and risked their lives. James was trying to back out of as many missions as he could so she didn’t have to worry about him and he didn’t have to worry about not coming back from the fight, but he didn’t want to drop out completely.
He was a fighter as well and he wasn’t about to let his friends go out there and not be with them.
The fact that the Order’s numbers were quickly dwindling wasn’t helping matters. It was in the middle of January when Edgar Bones was asleep with his wife, his ten year old daughter in the next room over. Edgar was always careful about his security, continuously updating his wards. Yet the Death Eaters proved to be more powerful and they shattered the wards without a problem. Edgar and his family didn’t stand a chance. The funeral was two days later. The Death Eaters continued to gain power and the Order was scrambling to protect themselves and those they fought for.
Many times they asked themselves how much longer they could continue to go on like this.
“What’s the matter, James?” Lily was sitting in the living room, knitting a pair of blue baby booties. She and James wanted to be surprised when the baby was born, so they refused to learn the sex of the baby. Yet blue was a neutral colour and could be given to a boy or a girl. When James stumbled through the front door, her first instinct was that there was something wrong with the Order or Sirius, Remus or Peter. When had the full moon been? No, she was getting ahead of herself. The full moon had been days ago and Remus was fine. But what about Sirius and Peter?
“My dad wasn’t at work today,” James told her, his voice sounding funny. “When I took off for my lunch break, I went to see if he was home. He and my mum… they’re… they’re not doing well, Lily.” His voice broke as he spoke the last part of the sentence.
“Oh… James, what’s happening?” Hannah and Charles were old, she knew this. They wouldn’t live forever. She knew that James was well aware of this, but he would never be prepared for their passing.
“They’re old.” James eased himself down into the armchair. He was looking Lily’s direction, but he obviously wasn’t seeing her. “I mean, I know this is happening. I’ve known it for years. They were so old when they had me. But I can’t think of it, Lily. I don’t want it to happen.” He couldn’t bring himself to admit they were dying. He supposed he should have appreciated they were dying together, that was the way they would have wanted it. He just didn’t want to lose them both at once.
Lily carefully knelt beside James, placed her hands on his arm comfortingly. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything, please just don’t.” James knew Lily was sorry. He knew she loved his parents and didn’t want them to pass on. He just wanted her to stay there with him. His parents were still alive, but it wasn’t going to be long now. He could see it by the looks in their eyes. They knew the end was near. He glanced at Lily, at the bulge in her belly that held their child. His mother had so wanted to meet her grandchild. If she made it to August, when the baby was due to be born, it would be a miracle.
Unfortunately James had a strong feeling that miracle wasn’t going to happen.
“How are my parents, Willie?”
“They is not well, Master James.”
James gritted his teeth. The House Elf sounded so sad. She spoke barely above a whisper and the usual chipper tone in her voice had long ago disappeared. Her wide eyes were filled with sadness and her ears drooped. James had never seen her like this, but he couldn’t blame her in the slightest. Willie had been with his parents since before he was born, well over twenty years now. Of course she would be terribly sad right now.
James had waited until Lily left to go to work before he set out for his parents. He knew he should have waited, but she could come later and he had to be on his own right now. He had a feeling he wouldn’t be able to hold himself together.
As silly as it was, he didn’t want her to see him like this.
James took a shuddering breath as he excused himself from Willie, who silently made her way into the kitchen. His parents were in their bedroom and had told Willie that they’d love to see their son. James would love to see them as well. He would love to see them healthy and young. Not old and frail. He had always seen both of his parents as people who were full of life. It was so strange to see their old age finally catch up with them and hit them the hardest it could manage.
When James entered his parents’ bedroom, he was struck by how little time he had spent in this room when he was growing up. This room had always seemed to be off-limits, no matter how much his parents protested that it wasn’t. They always said he was welcome to come in and talk if he wanted to, James just never took them up on it. When he was younger, he was so preoccupied with making friends his age. Growing up with older parents and no siblings would do that to a child. Now he had those friends and he sorely wished he had taken his parents’ up on their offer from childhood. He wouldn’t feel like such a stranger in this room.
His mother and father were both lying down in their bed, his mother’s eyes were closed and his father was looking at the ceiling as if it held something extremely interesting on it. James felt something clench painfully deep in his stomach. His father looked so… so lost. Charles Potter wasn’t that kind of man and it killed James to see him that way. And his mother… she had been so thrilled when he and Lily came to announce Lily was pregnant. She wasn’t going to get to see her grandchild.
James swallowed the lump in his throat. “Hi, Dad.” His voice came out as a weak croak, but it was loud enough for Charles to hear.
Charles’s eyes swiveled from the ceiling to the doorway. He sat up slightly, but James crossed the room in two steps, gently easing his father back down. There was no need for him to strain himself. “James,” Charles managed.
There was another clench in his stomach. James couldn’t say anything for a few minutes. He had noticed when he and Lily had once come that his parents looked older. On Christmas, he had seen it even more, and now… Now it was glaring James in the face, practically laughing at him. They couldn’t go. James needed them. He was about to be a father and he needed his parents. They couldn’t go, not now. “H-how are you?” It was such a lame, trite question, yet it was the only one James could think of.
“As well as can be expected,” Charles replied, his voice oddly calm. James didn’t think he could be that way if he had been in that position, the one confined to his bed to wait for the end to come. He would have wanted to jump out of his skin. He would have wanted someone to do something – anything - that would reverse what was happening. Charles clearly saw what was going through his son’s mind. “It’s not as bad as you imagine it is, James.”
James brought his gaze to his father. “I… I guess I’ll have to believe you.”
A small smiled crossed Charles’s face. “Yes, you will. I wish your mother was awake.”
“No… no, it-it’s good that she’s sleeping.” Or was she sleeping? No, James firmly told himself. He was not going to start thinking like that. His mother was sleeping, that was all there was to it. “Dad, I-”
Charles abruptly cut him off. “I know what you’re going to say. It’s going to be okay. Your mother and I are both prepared for this; we’ve been expecting it. Life has been so good to us. For a long time we believed there would be things we would never have, a child was one of them. Then, when Hannah found out she was expecting and when you were born… we got the one thing we wanted. You’ve made us so proud. You made us laugh; you were always true to who you are. You’ve been a wonderful son.”
James could feel the corners of his eyes prickling. He hastily sniffed and glanced down into his hands for a moment, collecting himself, before bringing his gaze back to his father. “Thanks, Dad.”
“You’re going to be a wonderful father. That child will never know anymore love than the kind you and Lily will give to him… or her. I only wish that we-”
Now it was James’s turn to cut him off. “No, please, Dad. I know. Just… just don’t say it.” He knew what his father wanted to say, that was enough. “You… you look tired, maybe you should rest.” He didn’t want to tire his father out more than he already had. “Go… go to sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
There was the ghost of a smile on his father’s face. “I’ll do that, James.” It took no more than a second for Charles’s eyes to close and for him to drop off to sleep.
James ran a hand under his nose as he looked down at his father. “I love you, Dad…”
There was absolute silence in the Potter household. There were five people sitting in the room, but there was not a sound to be heard from any of them. When Lily sent an urgent message to Remus, Sirius and Peter to hurry over, they hadn’t wasted any time. Now that they were there… none of them knew what to say. Lily sat on the couch, her arm around James, who could barely move on his own right now. She ran her hand comfortingly up and down his arm. She wished she could do more, but she knew James wouldn’t ask any more than this. Sirius and Peter were seated in the two armchairs. Sirius’s face was pale and wet around his eyes. Peter simply looked lost. Remus stood by the window, staring at his shoes and occasionally glancing at James and Lily. His jaw was set, his face sad.
Charles and Hannah Potter had passed away at noon on February the seventeenth.
It was Remus who broke the silence. “I’ll… I’ll go make some tea.” He didn’t know what to do in situations like this, but his mother had always told him: When in doubt, make tea. It gave someone something to do, something to hold. Now the only sounds to be heard were Remus filling the kettle with water.
Sirius took a deep breath and ran his hands over his face. He had never seen James like this before. James could barely keep himself steady. Of course, Sirius wouldn’t have expected anything else. James loved his parents more than anyone. The only person who could rival that love was Lily and, even then, it was a different kind. His parents had brought him into the world, raised him, help shape him into the person he became. Now they were gone. Sirius couldn’t believe it. Mr. and Mrs. Potter had practically been his own parents. They took him in when his own didn’t give a damn about him.
They were two good people. They had lived long, brilliant lives. They deserved the peaceful end they had received. Though that didn’t mean they weren’t devastated by it.
“James?” Sirius said carefully, studying his friend through concerned eyes. “If you need anything… just let me know.”
James pulled his face out of Lily’s shoulder and wiped his sleeve across it. He shook his head. He couldn’t even think of anything he might need right now. He knew there were going to be the funeral arrangements to take care of and their wills, but he couldn’t bring himself to even think about that right now. “Not right now, but thanks, Sirius.”
Remus returned with two cups of steaming tea in hand. He set those down on the table in front of Lily and James, knowing that if they wanted them they would take them. Then he disappeared again to retrieve the ones for Peter, Sirius and himself. Remus resumed his place at the window, looking into the contents of his tea. “For what it’s worth, at least it was peaceful.” He knew it was a small comfort, but it was better than James’s parents having been in pain when they died. That had been the way Remus’s grandparents had died and he was glad his friend didn’t have to see his parents suffer.
James’s voice was barely above a whisper, his voice hoarse. “Yeah… I suppose you’re right.” He wanted to be relieved that they hadn’t been in pain, but the hollow feeling in his chest wouldn’t let him. He brought his hand to his forehead and leaned back into Lily. “My dad was happy. When I talked to him… he was quiet and tired, but he was happy. That should be enough, shouldn’t it?”
“You don’t have to be ashamed of feeling upset,” Lily told him quietly. Her parents had been killed in a car crash; she knew there was no shame in grief, especially when it involved one’s parents. Grief was only natural. “James, you’re not alone in this, you know.”
He wasn’t alone. Everyone in that room had lost someone they loved. Lily had lost her both of her parents; Peter had lost his dad, Remus his grandparents and Sirius his brother. They all knew what he was going through; they would all help him get through it. There was no way they were letting James think there wasn’t anyone there who didn’t know how he felt. He knew this. He knew they all knew exactly what he was going through.
James knew he should be grateful that his parents had died of natural causes. They hadn’t been killed in a car crash, murdered by Death Eaters, ravaged by disease or mysteriously vanished. No, he was lucky that his parents got live their lives happily. He was lucky he got to see them one last time, talk to them one last time before they died. Merlin, what his dad had told him before he died. James’s breath caught in his throat as he remembered his father’s words. They were proud of him.
“Yeah… yeah, I know I’m not.” James ran his hands over his face and shakily stood up. He was aware that four pairs of eyes were on him and he needed something to distract himself from that. There was the cup of tea on the table and he hastily bent down to pick it up. The cup rattled noisily in the saucer, but he managed to steady his hand long enough to take a sip of the scalding liquid. “Merlin, there’s a lot of stuff I need to do.” Along with sorting out his parents’ wills, he had to arrange their burial. Then there was Willie; where was she going to go? The House Elf had been in his family for years and he certainly couldn’t just free her! She wouldn’t know what to do.
“James, we’ll help you with whatever you need,” Sirius repeated firmly. There was no way James had to burden himself with everything. If he needed help, Sirius was sure they would all be glad to give it to him.
James was about to say they didn’t need to do anything - that they had done enough by just being there - but he really did need the help. “Willie,” he said. “I don’t know what to do with her. Lily and I don’t really need a House Elf, do we?”
Lily shook her head. As much as she loved the elf, they didn’t really have a need for her in their tiny flat. The two of them were able to keep the place tidied up and running. They just didn’t have the room for her, either. “Where can she go?”
“How about Hogwarts?” Peter suggested.
“That’s a good idea,” Lily said. “Dumbledore will take good care of her and she’ll be with the other House Elves in the kitchens.”
They all instinctively looked at James. This was his decision, after all. The House Elf had been with him since he was a baby. He was the one who knew what was best for her, not them. “Yeah… that’s a good idea, Wormtail. I’ll talk to Dumbledore about it.” Merlin, he felt tired. He hadn’t felt it until now. Now that he did, he just wanted to be alone.
Remus apparently saw this as he turned to Sirius and said, “I think we promised to help Mrs. Sherman fix her window, didn’t we?”
Sirius raised an eyebrow at his roommate, confused for a moment before he realised what Remus was trying to do. “Right, yeah we did. Want to help, Peter?” Sirius asked this pointedly and in such a way that Peter couldn’t say no.
“Yeah, sure,” Peter agreed, thinking it was a pretty weak excuse. Why would it take three people to fix a window? He didn’t question it, though. He was smart enough to realise that James needed to be alone right now, that Lily was the only one who should be there with him. It was best for him, Sirius and Remus to just disappear for now.
When the three were gone, James turned to Lily. It broke Lily’s heart to see how lost he looked. For the first eleven years of his life, his parents had been everything to him. He didn’t have any neighbors; all of his cousins were years older than him. He had no one to make friends with. It had been his parents that he could talk to and now they were gone. “Do you want me to talk to Dumbledore?” Lily asked quietly. “About letting Willie work at the school?”
James nodded. He knew he should have done it, but he couldn’t. That House Elf was really the only thing he had left from his life with his parents. He also knew that Lily just wanted to help; she just wanted to make him feel better. If he had fewer things to worry about, that may help a bit. James sank back onto the couch and set his tea back on the table. Placing his face in his hands for a moment, he took a shaky breath before turning to face his wife. “I just… I just can’t believe they’re gone.”
Lily didn’t quite know what to say. In a way, it wasn’t so shocking. They both knew his parents were old. In another way, no one was ever prepared for this. She knew she hadn’t been, but her parents had died in a freak accident. No one could see it coming. James had known it was. Still, it didn’t make the situation any easier.
Luckily she didn’t have to say anything. “I mean, I know it was coming. It doesn’t mean I have to like it. They were my parents… I can’t think of them not being around. How did you do it?” His look was pleading and Lily felt her heart break again.
“I… I had my friends.” It was the truth. She did have her friends. She had Alice to talk to; Alice knew exactly what she was going through at the time. Remus had been a good friend to her then. James had been as well, even if they hadn’t been friends at the time. He had sent that letter to her. “You do too. Remus, Sirius and Peter, they’ll do anything you need. And I’m here. You don’t have to be brave for me.” She knew James would try to be, that he wouldn’t want to show that he was upset in front of her. Maybe it was because she would be an emotional wreck soon enough, but he didn’t have to do that.
James’s voice cracked. “I know I don’t.” And that was when James finally broke.
It was a dreary day, appropriately so. There was a small raised platform on which the bodies of Charles and Hannah Potter rest, dressed in their very best robes. They looked peaceful, that was all anyone could ask for in the end. Their faces were clean and calm; it looked as if they were simply sleeping. In the midst of this war, their fate could have been a lot worse, especially considering Charles’s past involvement with fighting Death Eaters. As it was, they had both died of natural causes. They had died together. While it would hit James the hardest to lose both of his parents at the same time, he knew that they would have wanted to go together. They had taken the same vows he and Lily had, after all.
Until death do them part, they would always be together.
“Thank you, Professor,” Lily grateful told Professor Dumbledore when she was finished speaking with him.
“I am glad to help. When Willie is ready, she will have her place at Hogwarts.” Dumbledore knew that a House Elf who had been with a family for as long as Willie had been with the Potters would have a difficult time if she was simply freed. The idea of letting her come to work with the House Elves at Hogwarts was a good one.
Lily thanked Dumbledore again before looking around for James. It wasn’t hard to spot him. She saw the mass of untidy black hair standing beside the platform where his parents were. It wouldn’t be long before the burial process was finally complete. James must have wanted to get his last goodbyes in while he could. “James?” she said quietly when she reached him. “How are you?” She knew it was possibly the worst question to ask, but it was all she could think of. She was worried about him.
“I’m okay,” he said, glancing around to look at her. Lily may not have believed him, but she saw the certainty behind the sadness in his eyes. James wouldn’t lie about his well-being to her. She knew he wouldn’t.
“Are you sure?” Even if he seemed certain, she just had to make sure he was.
James nodded. He stared at his parents for a long moment before facing his wife. “They lived a good life. They died in their sleep, that’s all I could ask for. There’s a war going on, Lily. They could have died a lot worse. They could have been killed like Mr. Pettigrew, but they weren’t. They got to die peacefully in their own house, on their own terms. My dad told me they were ready for it. They weren’t caught off guard and they wanted to make sure I wasn’t either. I’m sad about it, but I’ll be okay soon.”
James was right, Lily knew it. In a world that was filled with war, his parents could have met a worse end than they had. What mattered was that they were happy at the end. They had died in their home, having gotten to see their son, the person they loved above all else, and they had been ready for it. They had been in charge of their fates.
That was all they could ask for.
Excerpt from Chapter Eighty Five - Sealing their Fate
“Ah, yes, well we all have at one point or another,” the man agreed, nodding his head from side to side. “What’s so bad about it? It usually blows over.”
What was so bad about it? He was risking his bloody neck for people who probably didn’t give a damn that he was. “When it involves fighting all the time, it starts to get a bit irritating.”
Peter could see a glint in the man’s eyes, but he ignored it.
“Ah, well, that would get upsetting, I imagine.” The man nudged the glass of Firewhiskey closer to Peter, encouraging him to drink it. “Do something about it then?”
“Like what?” Peter had nearly drained his second glass of the alcoholic beverage and he was feeling slightly fuzzy headed, but he liked the feeling. He wanted to hear what this stranger had to say.
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