First and foremost, an apology. I never intended to take eight months to update and I'm still not sure where all the time has gone. However, this is a good one and the next chapter will be up right behind it.
Second, thanks for coming back despite this story's absence. It's going plenty of places, more places than it was when we last saw each other. You know about the Sirius and Lily subplot, but I've got another good one for you coming up.
Third, this story has more than ten thousand reads; I want to thank each and everyone of you for that number. I never anticipated this story would make it that big.
Finally, in these last eight months, I have not woken up to discover I'd magically become JK Rowling. So, unfortunatey, I still don't Harry Potter or any of the associated parts.
Thanks, loves, and enjoy the show.
Mum and I sat down to talk about everything yesterday. She and I managed to settle all of our differences and we have found some semblance of peace in our house.
She's in the kitchen, cleaning up from tea, while I work on a Transfiguration essay on the couch. It seems strange to me that such common activities should be allowed to continue in the face of the unusual circumstances I now call my life.
We don't see eye to eye on the situation, but I appreciate that she is willing to help me anyway.
She and I have come to an agreement, after a long argument, that I will attend the rest of Hogwarts, sit my exams, and wait to make another move in my life until after the baby is born. She's still on the fence about James's offer of marriage, considering it to be an admiral step in accepting responsibility, but not the appropriate one. I don't know how I feel about it, really. That is something that leaves me pretty confused, with my forehead scrunched up and my heart pounding in my toes.
I hear Mum moving around and it strikes me out of my thoughts. I sigh and go back to reading the passage for this essay. I can't focus, though; all my focus is on the sounds Mum is making in the front hall. I don't really know why she's working so hard to clean the whole house, only a few of her friends are coming for a New Year's Eve drink.
There's a couple of quick-succession thuds and I'm not sure if her guests are early or if she just knocked over pictures.
"Lily? There's someone at the door…" Mum calls cautiously from the front door. I look curiously around the room at no one and I slowly set my work aside. "For you…" My eyebrows shoot into my hair and I jump up, crashing into the side table as I dash to the door.
"Ow! Bullocks!" I cry as I hit the doorframe on my way through the dining room.
"Lily! Language!" Mum says sharply as I walk into the room, rubbing my forehead. With one eye partially closed due to my palm, I squint with the other at the door. Good Lord Salazar, what the hell is he doing in my house?
"Lily, your hellos always make me feel so special inside," he retorts, rolling his eyes good-naturedly.
I have a really great comeback, it is a real doozy, he would've been floored, but instead what comes out of my mouth is, "You're in my house!"
As he bursts out laughing, I mentally scold myself. I'm not normally that much of a dolt, but my brain and my mouth just aren't working today. I keep berating myself, wracking my brains to understand why nothing about the feisty goodbyes he usually gets came out of my mouth. Sometimes, I really don't understand myself.
"Really?" he jokes when he recovers. He peers around comically. "I hadn't noticed."
I try to resist, I really do, but I can't stop the corners of my mouth from creeping up and the laugh from escaping. I don't miss that grin; it seems I always notice it now. I ask, "What are you doing here?"
"Picking you up," he says calmly, casually. "It is New Year's Eve, you're aware?"
Maturely, I stick my tongue out at him. "I'd love to, James, but I'm sorry; I'm spending tonight with Mary and Dorcas, like we always have."
"You were, until this morning," he admits sheepishly, shrugging his shoulders up to his ears. I groan; I hate when people change my plans without telling me. "I know you don't like surprises—"
"—You can say that again—"
"—but I promise this will be loads of fun! Please?"
I look everywhere but at his adorable pleading face; I make the mistake of looking at my mum instead, who gives me this look that makes me groan. I cover my face with my hands and then peek through my fingers at him. He looks so hopeful. Merlin, I hate my life.
"Fine." I really want to stay grouchy, but I can't resist his cheerful attitude as he dances around the entryway. "Let me change?"
"If you want to fly on a broomstick to Mars first, I'd let you," he says at once. I wonder how long he's been wanting to use that.
I head back to the couch to gather my Transfiguration work, I guess I won't be finishing that up tonight, and then trudge upstairs to find other clothes. I should've asked where we're going and what we're doing, but it's James. There's bound to be something troublesome at least and illegal at worst going on, so I automatically reject anything too nice.
I pull out a decent-length pretty blue dress my dad bought me for my fourteenth birthday. I've only worn it twice (and it only fits now because it was too big then), and tonight seems like the perfect occasion to bring it back out.
I can hear my mum talking with James and I hope she's being nice. I mean, he's the father of her grandchild.
With the sounds of their voices to spur me on, I try to think of anything besides my wand I might need. Nothing. I mean, I'm already pregnant, right?
Nope, still weird.
I lope back down the stairs, pinning my hair up quickly as I go. I stand at the base of the stairs for a moment, ignoring the expression on James' face because then I'd become a tomato, and finally remember where I left my coat. Wrapping my scarf around my neck (Gryffindor, of course, courtesy of Mary's mum), I shrug on my coat and turn to James.
He gives me some sort of grotesque nod, but I'll deal with him in a moment. If I leave Mum without a proper goodbye, I might not be allowed back in a few hours.
"Is that all you're taking?" Mum asks as I reach for a hug.
"What d'you mean?" I feel my forehead scrunching up and I try to stop it; I hate that I do that when I'm confused.
"James gave me the impression it was going to be a very late party and his parents would prefer you stay there," she explains and I furtively give James a withering glare; I loathe surprises. "I would, too, in fact. Pet is coming home at about ten and heaven knows what you'll do to her on so little sleep."
I sigh and wave my wand. Before my mum can say anything else, a little bag comes down the stairs. A comb and a toothbrush and socks are in it, I think, but probably not much else. What? My feet freeze at night.
"Is that all?" she asks, peeking in the bag.
"I think I'll survive, Mum," I say, resisting my urge to roll my eyes. "All right, Potsy, let's go."
"Potsy? You're getting creative again, Lils," he says, an amused expression still on his face from my interaction with Mum.
She leans in for a quick hug and says in a low voice, "Nice kid." I raise my eyebrows at her, but she ignores me. She then kisses me on the head and then leaves the room, knowing I hate Apparating in front of her. It just doesn't seem fair.
"I've never done Side-Along, so I hope I don't splinch you."
"You will die an agonizing death," I remind it flatly and clutch his arm tightly. With a pop and a squeeze, I feel like I'm able to breathe again. "I won't be able to do that soon without inducing labor," I moan as I let go of him, stretching. "All right, forward march."
I start walking. It takes me a few paces to realize James has not followed me.
"What?" I ask exasperatedly, waving my arms around probably like an idiot.
"Induce labor?" he whispers, his face ghostly pale.
I sigh. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said it like that," I concede, lacing my arm through his again, "but yes, Apparating can induce labor the later into term I get."
"What else can?" he says quietly and I have a sudden stroke of deep admiration for him. He cares so much, much more than I had ever given him credit for and more than I understand. He doesn't care just about me or having won me (because, and Merlin knows I hate to admit it, he sort of did), he cares about us and our baby and this little family's future.
(Still freaks me out.)
"Questions from annoying prats," I tease, shaking his arm a little. He manages a weak smile, but it seems I caught him completely unawares. "James." He meets my eyes. "Don't worry about it tonight, okay? Healer Schwarz has me up-to-date on all of that stuff and I'll keep the two of us safe. You just make sure you're still going to be around in seven months. Deal?"
He considers this. "Deal. You will tell me more, though right?" The echoing sincerity in his gorgeous eyes knocks the breath right out of me, so all I can manage is a nod. "Good. I think you'll have fun tonight, Lily."
"Well, if not, I'll just ditch you and go each ice cream with Mary." I shrug nonchalantly and laugh at the mock-affronted look on his face.
"I have never had a guest leave and I'm not about to let it happen now," he assures me with rough enthusiasm.
He opens the front door and I'm greeted by the noise only his friends can make. The ruckus seems to have no beginning or end but is being continuously supplied by the entire house. I don't understand how James's parents can live like this. This is not how it'll go when we're married.
(I'll never get used to it.)
James shouts something incomprehensible and footsteps pound. He takes my coat and hangs it by the door, using his wand to send my bag somewhere out of sight, and I feel very out of place without the long-sleeves and pants James is wearing. Well, at lease the dress has sleeves, even if they only cover my elbows.
"I really abhor that name," I grumble just before Sirius hugs me.
"How's my favorite redhead?" he asks. I swat away his hand so he can't pinch my cheeks. I don't want to know when or why he started doing that. It was probably a dare from Remus; whatever that boy says, he is still a prankster deep at heart or he wouldn't hang around these hooligans.
"I'm your only redhead," I remind him. I have to look away when the double implication comes to mind and instead look at Peter. "How was Christmas, Peter?"
"Less uncomfortable than yours," he chimes in. That boy has got a clever mind, I wonder why he always acts like a bumpkin.
"I bet that's true of everyone," Remus says, breaking the awkward silence I bring to the table. He gives me a strange one-armed hug and then I remember the full moon was a few days ago. Poor lad. "Mr. and Mrs. Potter will be home soon. They had to make an appearance at some Ministry function or other."
"Shame, I would've liked to meet your parents," I tease James, elbowing him a bit.
He flushes pink and stares down at his feet. I stare curiously at him and then turn to his friends. Sirius finally pipes up with, "They've heard too much about you, almost as much as we have."
I feel…flattered. That's a nice feeling. I don't know what to say, or how to admit that without making everything awkward, so instead I try to give indication I'm hungry and want to sit down.
It doesn't work. Boys.
"So, food?" I try instead.
"Right!" James exclaims, raising a finger in the air. He's coming to life again and I like it; I like his buoyancy and energy, even if I think his humor is frequently misdirected. He leads the way into what probably is a sitting room during normal hours but what has become a teenage boy disaster zone. I don't like it, not one bit.
"What the hell is this?" I demand, freezing in the doorway. "I know you four aren't used to this, but there's a girl here now."
Peter has the audacity to challenge me. "So?"
"So?" I repeat in a low voice. "So? So? So?! So?!"
"Pete, I think you broke her," Sirius whispers. I ignore it.
"So, clean it up! Where am I supposed to sit? There is no rhyme or reason to any of this! I don't want to know what in the name of Merlin's beard that is. And good Godric, what died in here?"
The four stare at me in complete silence. I make some very frustrated sounds and stare to furiously wave my wand around, muttering curses at them.
I watch in satisfaction as my spells tidy up the place. I'm not the most organized, I'll be the first to admit it, but I hate needless mess. The girls in my dorm hate me at the end of week because I've either threatened them to clean their parts of the room or done it for them multiple times. I understand disorganization as a form of order, but not mess!
Excuse my tirade.
"Did anyone else know spells could do that?" Peter finally asks, gazing about the room in awe. There is order and places to sit and whatever god-awful smell existed in here has been vanquished.
Instead of getting angry again (hormones suck), I sit calmly down in a chair and wait for something to happen.
Finally, the boys stir and sit around me. Sirius starts some music up and Peter digs into the food. I hear Remus say to James, "I don't envy the rest of your life," and I smile to myself. Sometimes they annoy me, but I do love these boys and they're mine.
It is an uneventful party, for who's there and what their parties normally appear to be. Sirius breaks out the alcohol and becomes pretty tipsy, but no one else touches it. We seem to all readily recollect what can happen; I notice James glancing at my stomach frequently. We break out Exploding Snap when the general unpleasantness of the crowd disperses. I hadn't known this before tonight, but I really am the first girl to invade this foursome's private bonding time. I will somehow have to find a way to inform them how (surprisingly) honored I am.
I still wonder if these four made a name for themselves. I'll have to find out from James later. I bet it's something stupid they thought was clever in third year. But I digress.
Exploding Snap gets competitive about ten minutes it. It is probably expected that the boys were the culprits; false. It's me.
"No! Ow!" Swear words I ought not repeat. "Black, you will die a gruesome death!" I scream as my cards explode after Sirius's turn. It's the third time it's happened in one game and I'm on the edge of irate; my current plan to injure includes shoving cards ready to explode down his throat and magicking his mouth closed.
"Ah, Lily m'dear, you've got to take this less seriously," he jokes, leaning back in his seat and putting his hands behind his head.
The game continues this way for an hour before James excuses me from the game and takes me to the food. I pour myself some pumpkin juice (if Black spiked this, I am going to find a new inventive mode of maiming) and take a deep breath.
"I had no idea you were like this over cards," he finally says, choking back a snigger.
"Oh, laugh, James," I say resignedly. He does, and once he gets ahold of himself, I explain. "That's the truth about me; I'm super competitive. It's part of why I couldn't stand you when we were younger. You were smart without trying; I worked late into the night and woke up early in the morning all of third and fourth years to finally get better marks in Transfiguration than you."
He scrutinizes me with a mixture of awe, fear, and respect. "That... that's terrifying, Lils, truthfully. I promise to never cross you again."
I laugh now, effervescence spilling over from deep inside me. How strange that I belong here of all places.
After James deems me socially ept enough again to play, I try to reel in my temper and play like more of a lady.
(It's hard and this situation is still surreal.)
Now that I'm acting appropriately, the jabs and puns take new twists and turns, egging on Peter at times and Remus at others. James seems to dole out most of it, good-naturedly of course, and I'd love to see someone take on Sirius as well as he can give it.
Probably an hour to midnight, we hear noise in the front hall and James jumps up, looking excited.
"Mum! Dad!" he yells, standing up. The game has reached a hiatus with this interruption and we throw our cards down and retreat in separate directions. I yawn and I hear the contented sounds of the other three laying down as James dashes away. "Guess who's here!"
I take that as my cue and rise from my seat, crossing the floor in a few paces to where James stands in the doorway, bouncing on the balls of his feet. When his parents come in, I am suddenly unstoppably self-conscious, a state I haven't been in since my healer visit. What do they think of me? It can't be good; I'm the girl their son got pregnant.
They don't give me the judgment I expect. Mrs. Potter hugs me tightly and Mr. Potter shakes my hand. "We've heard so much about you, we were sure he'd made you up by this point!" Mrs. Potter finally says, her eyes beaming wider than her mouth. She's where James got his happy smile.
"Oh, Mum," James whines as she hugs him. "Don't embarrass me!"
"There is nothing your parents can say that would be worse than some of the things you did," I reply, noting with satisfaction the look of horror on his face. So he never told his parents, eh?
"You will have to enlighten us some other time, Miss Evans," Mr. Potter says, looking greatly amused.
"Lily, please," I say. It doesn't feel right if they call me by my last name. It would like calling them Mum and Dad right off the bat. Strange.
(Although a strange possibility I may have to adjust to one day.)
"All right then. Lily," he amends. "We'll leave you to it then. Sirius, lad, are you okay?" Sirius just nods and gives a thumbs-up from the chair where he's crashed, his head over one arm and his feet the other. It seems he can't drink as much as he thought. Mr. and Mrs. Potter leave without any fuss; I really like them.
James is like a kid at Christmas, always eager to know. "I think they're fantastic," I admit and he squeezes my hand, which I hadn't realized he'd taken. "Will Sirius make it?"
"Just barely," James tells me quietly as Remus pulls the bottle from said boy's hand. "He's never made it past 12:30 anyway. Don't let him fool you; late nights are hard for him."
I honestly have no response to that, so I just nod. I can tell the game is over and so can the boys. We'll fight over who won in the morning. (Me.) I sit next to James on the couch, curling up and into him. This is so right, I just can't believe it. This is where I belong and I don't know how to feel about it.
The four sober of us talk for a while, but Peter drops off not long after the midnight chime. Remus is tactful and levitates Sirius and Peter to their respective beds, leaving James and I alone.
"Thanks for coming," he whispers, "and I'm sorry it wasn't much of a party. We aren't as exciting on New Year's as we are after a match."
"It was lovely," I tell him sincerely and his joy couldn't be contained if I put a charm on it.
I see him leaning in and I find myself leaning forward. When we collide, a swooping sensation erupts in the pit of my stomach. I remember the fireworks from that night weeks ago, but I had attributed those to the alcohol—now I see he is a fantastic kisser and I do have feelings for him.
As the seconds tick by, I am a bit surprised when James pulls away, but when I open my eyes, I see it was to yawn. I stifle a giggle in his shoulder and it somehow becomes a yawn as well.
"To bed with us," James says softly, the words getting lost in my hair before my ears find them. I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I like the sound of that.