James always cherished the first few seconds of waking up, when his memories were blurred at the edges. He savoured the seconds of bliss that he could soak up before all the events of the previous days could crash over his head. As it was, he awoke that morning with no memory of the previous night. The sun that trickled in through a crack in his curtains dotted his carpet, and the cool breeze that slid through the open door tickled his cheeks.
James rose slowly from his bed, biting his lip at the bitter chill. Despite the weak December sun, the house air remained resolutely cold. As he caught sight of his wand, carelessly discarded on his floor, the memories of the night before washed over him. He groaned, any happiness he might have felt moments before permanently obliterated.
James shuffled downstairs, his limbs loose with sleep. His mother sat alone at the table, silently spooning porridge in to her mouth. She was scanning the front page of the Daily Prophet.
“Mum?” he said. She did not reply. He stayed in the doorway, unsure whether to approach her.
“Mum?” he said, slightly louder. “Where’s dad?”
“Gone,” she said, her eyes locked resolutely on the paper.
“Gone?” James repeated blankly. He thought he must have heard his mother wrong. His father would not have left. Of all of them, his father was meant to be the strong one. If Harry were to crumble, the rest of them would surely go tumbling down with him.
“He needs to think some things over,” said Ginny. “He’ll be back soon”. Her voice quavered slightly, betraying her insecurities about this statement.
“Where is L- Where is she?” asked James, faltering on her name. Ginny finally looked up. Her cheeks were a fleshy, tear stained red. The softly wrinkled skin under her eyes was tinged grey.
“She’s asleep. In her old room,” said his mother. Lily’s room had remained untouched, as if it were a shrine to the youngest Potter.
“I guess we have a use for it then,” said James, in an effort to lighten the mood.
Ginny nodded, smiling fleetingly. As the smile died on her face, it was replaced by panic. “What are we going to do?” she asked, her eyes widening.
“What do you mean?” asked James, nonplussed.
“Your father-“she choked. “I don’t know where he’s gone.” Her face crumpled, and she started to sob. James wrapped his arms around her, as she used to do to him when he was a child.
“He’s probably gone to Uncle Ron’s” said James. “I’ll go there now.” Ginny nodded, brushing away the tears.
“Of course you’re right,” she said, with a watery smile. “Of course he’s there. I feel so stupid.”
“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” said James, grabbing a piece of toast from the toast rack and cramming it in to his mouth.
James strode out of the kitchen and into the living room. On top of an ornate fireplace sat a terracotta jug, brimming over with silvery powder. James plunged his hand in, and drew out a handful. He tossed it in to the crackling flames, and cried “37 Kettleburn Road” as he stepped into the grate.
James emerged from the fireplace, coughing violently. He shook his hair to loosen the soot that had latched on to it.
“Hey James,” said Rose from the kitchen table. Due to the many Weasley’s passing through their kitchen, Rose was entirely unperturbed about seeing James step out of the fire. “What’s up?”
“What’s up? A little old fashioned, don’t you think?” asked James. Rose giggled, and stuck her tongue out at him.
“Fine, why are you here then?” she asked, gesturing to the seat next to her.
“Have you seen dad?” asked James.
“You’ve lost Harry?” asked Rose, wrinkling her nose. “I knew you were carless, but this must be a new low. Have you checked under your bed?”
“Rose, I’m being serious,” said James.
“I’m sorry,” said Rose, placing an arm round his shoulder. “That was totally out of line. Why has he gone?” she asked.
James took a deep breath, wondering exactly where to begin. When no way to ease into the conversation presented itself, he decided to just blurt it out. “Lily’s back.”
“What?” asked Rose, her jaw falling open. “When?”
“Last night,” said James. “Well, morning. It was about two am, so yeah, I’d say morning.”
“I don’t think time’s important here,” she said. She licked her lips nervously, running her tongue along the scaly surface. “What happened to her?”
“She doesn’t know,” said James, sighing heavily. “She’s lost her memory.”
“So Uncle Harry just left then?” asked Rose, steering the conversation back to why James had arrived.
“Yeah,” said James. Rose placed her hand over his, her considerably shorter, slimmer fingers twining through his. “I’ve tried so hard not to hate her,” he burst out. “But I can’t help it sometimes.”
Rose nodded. James appreciated the fact that she did not say anything. Knowing when to stay silent had never been one of Rose’s strong points.
“She’s made me realize my parents aren’t infallible, you know? Sometimes I think they’re even weaker than we are. I just- I can’t believe he left.”
“I’ll see if dad’s heard from him,” said Rose, pulling her hand away and smiling at James. “He’ll turn up,” she said. “He probably just needs some time to get things straight.”
Rose sprinted from the kitchen, leaving James alone. He took in his surroundings, not really seeing them at all. The Granger-Weasley household had become pretty much his first home over the last year, and he could navigate it with his eyes shut.
His eyes focused briefly on a family photo, and he smiled. Nana Molly, in a bout of familial love (and what James suspected was a desire to boss them around), had decided they needed a family portrait. It could have gone a lot worse, thought James. Despite Louis and Hugo’s best efforts, all of their smiles lacked plastic vampire fangs, and nobody had suffered a head wound from questioning Nana Molly’s decisions. Still, given the three weeks or so of organisation involved, James doubted his grandmother would have any desire to do it again.
“James,” said Ron breathlessly, darting into kitchen, Rose and Hugo at his heels. “What’s going on?”
“Have you seen Dad?” asked James.
“Not since Friday,” said Ron, his brow furrowing. He ran a hand through his disheveled locks. “Why? What happened?”
James exhaled deeply. He hadn’t even realised he’d been holding his breath. “Lily came back.”
Ron’s face lit up, then died down as he took in James’s less-than-cheerful expression. “And that’s not a good thing?”
“Well- no. Apparently Dad needs some space,” said James. Ron nodded.
“How’s Lily?” he asked.
“Lily doesn’t remember anything,” said James. “She turned up last night- she doesn’t remember leaving us.”
“Hugo, go back to bed,” said Ron. Hugo grumbled, and stalked out of the kitchen indignantly. Ron looked at James, placing a hand on his shoulder. “I’m going to see your mother,” he said. Rose coughed, and Ron looked at her. “Rose, give James something to drink. I’ll be back soon.”
Rose smiled, and turned towards the kettle. Ron released his hand from James’s shoulder, and leapt into the fireplace, shouting James’s address as he went.
“Coffee okay?” asked Rose, pulling a jar out from the cupboard.
“Sure,” said James. “Whatever’s easiest.”
“Where’s Al?” asked Rose. “Didn’t he want to come?”
“He wasn’t up when I left,” said James. Rose offered him a biscuit, which he declined. “Anyway, he hasn’t taken this all too well.”
“How do you mean?” asked Rose, placing a mug of coffee in front of him and collapsing into the seat next to him.
“Well, it was really weird. She kept on insisting that she’d only been gone five minutes. Well, Al finally cracked. I think we all did, actually. We’d all been hoping she’d come back, and then when she did, it was almost like she was disregarding the pain she’d put us through.”
“So I’m guessing Al shouted at her, or something,” said Rose with a sigh, “I should have guessed as much.”
“Of all of us, I think he missed her the most,” said James, sipping from his mug. “I don’t know, I guess he just lost it.”
“It’s a little odd, don’t you think?” asked Rose. “Why would she ring the doorbell?”
James considered this for a moment. “I don’t know,” he said finally. “Now that you mention it, it does seem a little strange. But then again, that’s probably a side affect of losing her memory.”
“It just seems- I don’t know, it’s like there’s something wrong with it that I can’t put my finger on. You know what? Forget it. I’m just happy she’s back,” said Rose, gulping down her coffee.
“I’m happy she’s back too,” said James, placing his head in his hands. “I guess it just hasn’t hit me yet. I know it sounds odd, but I think we were settling in to life without her. Merlin, that probably sounds so callous, but it’s true.”
“I don’t judge,” said Rose with a grin. “But I think I know what you mean.”
A loud crack ran through the kitchen. Ron appeared in the middle of the kitchen, supporting Harry. James gasped. “Dad?” he asked, running to his father.
“He’s sleeping,” said Ron. When he caught sight of Rose’s puzzled expression, he expanded further. “He stayed over at Neville’s house.” James nodded bitterly, feeling foolish that the thought to try his father’s other friends had not occurred to him.
Ron half-carried, half-dragged Harry towards the living room, where he lay him down on the sofa. James started to walk towards him, but Ron held him back.
“Let him sleep,” said Ron.
“How’s mum?” asked James. Ron paused.
“She’s doing okay,” he said eventually. “She’s resting, at the moment.” Ron paused once more, biting his lip. “I saw Lily,” he said, jumping straight in with the usual Weasley tact.
“Oh,” said James, not sure how exactly he was expected to reply.
“She hasn’t changed,” said Ron. “Not at all.”
Harry stirred on the sofa, letting out a quiet groan. James ran towards him, sidestepping Ron.
“Dad,” he said, shaking his father’s shoulder. “Wake up.”
Harry groaned again, and sat up. “James!” he said. His eyes took in his surroundings, confusion etched on to his face. “What happened?” he asked.
“Uncle Ron brought you here,” said James.
“Oh,” said Harry groggily. James watched his eyes widen as the memories of the night before flooded back.
“Dad, come home,” said James. Harry nodded, rising from the sofa.
“James, I’m so sorry,” he said. “I just needed some time to think.”
“Dad, I know-“
“I’m meant to be the strong one,” he continued. “But I ran away. I’m sorry.”
“Dad, it doesn’t matter. Just- just come home, will you?”
“Okay,” said Harry, smiling weakly. “Okay.”
A/N You have no idea how much trouble this chapter has given me, and I'm still iffy about the ending. Still, I promised a longer update, and voila! I hope you enjoyed it! The next update might take a couple of weeks, as I have a few one shots I need to post first. :D