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Chapter 1 : Second Childishness and Mere Oblivion
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Lily bites her lip and refuses to let the tears fall from her eyes, all the while cursing herself and every single Death Eater for what has just happened. Because it’s not fair; she has always had a picture in her head of her future -- a wistful, far-too-good-to-be-true image of happiness and sunshine and flowers, of her and James walking off into the sunset, unencumbered by the darkness that slowly surrounded them.
Of course, of course she should have known that things weren’t going to be that simple.
Things never have been simple when it comes to her and James. Their relationship had been often been tempestuous and difficult. It certainly hadn't always been romantic. Their first kiss was in an empty alleyway in Hogsmeade, and the wind crashing in their ears as her frozen lips touched his hadn’t exactly been musical. The first time they made love was nothing like she had expected either. They had both been in the hospital wing, having risked their lives that night and returned with cuts and bruises.
It had been sweaty, messy and painful, and as Lily had leaned against James’s bare chest afterwards, he whispered to her, “I... I’ve never done this before.”
There was something childlike about the way he looked at her, as though hoping she wouldn’t mind, and she couldn’t help but smile.
“I haven’t either,” she told him.
She could feel his chest tighten and hear his sharp intake of breath. “But... but I thought you and...” Lily shook her head. He looked relieved, pleased even, though not in his usual cocky manner. And then a look of worry flashed on his face. “Did I... hurt you?”
“Not a lot,” Lily half-lied. She had expected that moment of dull pain, and when it had came, she had bitten her lip and avoided his eyes so he couldn’t see her grimace. She didn’t want to tell him, but he guessed anyway.
“Merlin, Lily,” he breathed. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be silly,” she said quickly. “Honestly, I’m fine. A bit sore, but I’m fine.” He continued to look unsettled and turned away from her, so she leaned up and placed a kiss on the back of his neck, her arms winding around his waist. “James, I don’t regret it. Please don’t worry. I’ll be all right. Besides, next time, it’ll be better.”
At this, he turned around, a hopeful look on his face, and she smiled, saying, “Yes, there will be a next time” before kissing his lips. She didn’t care that they were in the hospital wing, because she was with James, and that was enough for her.
“It really doesn’t hurt that much?” he had asked again.
“No,” she had replied. “Really.”
He had smiled, then, kissing her gently. “You and me against the world, Lily,” he had said softly to her. She had smiled back, the pain easing a little as she had fallen asleep with James’s arms encircling her.
Lily smiles briefly at the memory before drifting back to present. She can’t quite believe what she has just seen: James, in the hospital bed, shaking; James, giving Lily one last smile before he passed out; James, her James, taking a curse for Lily that has made him lose so much blood that he could die. She barely registers that very blood on her fingers, the way the angry scarlet of it stains her skin and dries up, as she sits outside the hospital room and buries her face into her hands.
They don’t know what will happen to him. They -- the Healers -- have told her that they don’t even know what spells have been used against James, only that it is Dark Magic, and that they don’t know if he will survive. Lily can barely remember it herself, even though it happened only half an hour ago: it’s all just a blur, to her, a blur of spells and curses and war.
She can’t feel anything. Not yet. There is a numbness about her which has long since dulled her senses and emotions, as if her brain refuses to process James’s fate, just like her body refuses to acknowledge the pain it should be feeling. Her head is pounding, though, and it’s like someone is using her skull as a drum. She tries to get up, her head becoming heavier and heavier, but just as she manages to get to her feet, the white walls surrounding her begin to spin, and everything becomes black.
Everything is numb again when she wakes up. She has to blink several times for the room to come into focus, and when it does, she almost jumps in fright at the sight of the Healer nearest her. She is wearing glasses and quietly dictating a report to a quill which is scribbling away furiously.
The blood has been washed off, and Lily is now wearing a white nightgown. The pain has gone, only to be replaced by a far more agonising ache, of loneliness, of not knowing where any of her friends are, of not knowing where James is.
“Oh, good, you’re awake,” the woman says briskly. “Quite a fall you had there, Miss Evans.”
Lily tries to speak, her voice cracked and barely audible. “How is J-James doing?”
“We’re in a completely different ward to Mr Potter, Miss Evans. I assure you that the Healers are doing everything they can to help him, and we will inform you of any progress as soon as we can.”
She bites back tears. “Thank you,” she is just about able to say.
“Now, Miss Evans, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s no lasting damage for you -- you must have sprained your wrist earlier, but that’s fine now,” she says. “In fact, we’re pretty sure of the reasons for you fainting -- ah, here we are.” She glances up as another Healer enters the room.
“The results, Healer Stewart,” he says quietly, handing over a piece of parchment, and then he exits the room just as swiftly.
“Results?” Lily repeats. “For what?” Her exhausted mind is already reeling, trying to think of possible reasons for them to be doing tests --
“Tell me, Miss Evans,” the Healer begins, “when was your last period?”
Hours later, Lily lies in her bed in St. Mungo’s (Dumbledore visited earlier, saying it was probably better for her to stay there rather than at home by herself), wondering what she is going to do. James could be dead by now, for all she knows, and she is carrying a baby -- their baby.
It was an accident. Of that, Lily is sure. She can still remember every detail: how, after a whole street of Muggles were killed by Death Eaters during a botched Order mission, James had returned home angry and drunk, having gone to the Sorcerer’s Seat with Sirius, Remus and Peter.
Lily had yelled at James, berating him for getting so pissed, for coming home smelling strongly of smoke and drink, and he had yelled back. They continued to swipe at each other, Lily desperate to let out the anger and bitterness that had been growing within her, even if James wasn’t the one to blame for any of it, and he had done the same, the liquor bringing out the very worst in him, the part of him that Lily had never really seen before.
But then, suddenly, she had run out of steam, realising how petty she was being, and so had he. She didn’t have the energy to scream at him anymore, and her lungs hurt enough as it was. She was the first to whisper apologies to him.
He had crumpled, then, mumbling “Sorry” to her too before he slammed his lips clumsily against hers. Lily had kissed him back, just as hard, the salty tears she couldn’t remember shedding mingling with his so she didn’t know whose tears she tasted. She didn’t care, though; she needed him as much as he needed her.
She barely registered his stubble leaving tiny scratches on her cheek, or the alcohol she could taste on his lips, or the acrid smell of cigarette smoke mixed with sweat on his clothes as she tore them off. They went up the stairs, their clothes half-on, half-off, tripping up the steps in their haste to get to their room.
When they reached their bed, she murmured, “Everything I said... I was being selfish.”
“You weren’t,” he said quietly as he kissed her forehead. She felt his warm palms slide down her shoulders and arms, gently unhooking her bra. When she raised her eyebrows questioningly, he added, “Okay, maybe a little. But so was I.”
A moan escaped from her lips as he cupped her breast. “Yeah, you were,” she managed to say.
“Thanks a bunch,” he muttered, but they both smiled anyway. “You were right, too, though. It’s not just because of -- it’s because of all this fighting, okay? It’s too much for me right now. And I know it, I’m just too much of a prat to admit it, even to myself. But... I think I want to deal with this one on my own, okay?”
“Okay,” she said with a nod. She understood that some things were better left unsaid, and she tried to forget about it as she tugged off his boxers and then her own knickers, and James laughed softly when they got stuck around her knees. He bent down and slowly removed them, kissing up her leg, two fingers running up her thigh and higher, making her cry out and taste his name in her mouth. He kissed her again, and her hands moved to his back, her fingertips tracing his spine and then lower, below his waist. She broke away a little, staring into his eyes, watching his pupils dilate and darken as they reached such a high together that Lily felt lightheaded with pleasure. He lowered his lips to her throat, uttering soft, soft loving words into her neck.
“I love you,” he said.
“Love you too,” she murmured, and the last thing on her mind was the contraceptive charm.
Lily had known they had forgotten to cast the charm the morning after. But they had been so careful all this time, and when Lily had realised their mistake, while she had known there was a chance of pregnancy, she had thought, what were the chances, anyway?
Now, as she lies in a bed in St. Mungo’s, she wonders what the chances are of James even surviving to see his own child.
“Don’t ever do that to me again,” she breathes to him three days later.
James is still in his hospital bed, but this time, Lily knows he’s not on the brink of death. Not quite -- not yet. Sirius, Remus, Peter and Marlene are waiting outside, allowing James and Lily their privacy first.
“Understood,” he murmurs back.
“I mean it,” Lily says, her voice shaky, veering dangerously close to hysteria. “You could have died, damn you!”
“Well, I’m alive, Lily, so it’s okay,” James replies, trying to placate her, but to no avail.
“No, it’s not okay! I’ve been out of my mind these last few days, James, and I--” She breaks off, burying her face into his neck, careful not to hug him too tightly. “Does that hurt?” she asks.
“It’s fine. Honestly, I could get up right now and go on a mission if you--”
“Don't even think about it,” she hisses, but then he bursts out laughing, and despite her anger and worry, Lily can't help smiling.
“I’m only joking, Lily.”
“Please don’t joke about--”
Lily is interrupted as the door opens and Sirius sticks his head in. “Merlin, Lily,” he says. “You two have been in the room not even ten minutes and you're already bickering.”
“Piss off, Padfoot,” James says affectionately.
“Can we come in now, lovebirds?” Sirius asks. “Or do you need more time in your little nest?”
“Don't push it,” she warns him as he enters the room without waiting for an answer, blowing Lily a kiss, Remus, Peter and Marlene behind him. But she knows he isn’t serious.
James returns home from St. Mungo’s a few days later.
Lily tries to act normal, and he does too; they fall back into their routine, their familiar banter, James making his usual jokes and Lily reprimanding him every now and then. But the need to tell him almost becomes too much at times, and after dinner that evening, their conversation slows, finally coming to a hesitant stop. Unconsciously, her fingers tangle with his, and under the table, their legs touch. It helps. Then, taking a deep breath, she tells him she has something to say, and he, to her surprise, replies that he does, too.
He gets it in first. “Lily... will you marry me?”
There is a tiny sound as he places a small box on the table.
She is speechless. Of all things, she did not expect this. Her mouth opens and closes like a fish, and she realises how stupid she must look, so she tries to speak. “I -- you -- oh my God.”
James laughs nervously. “Maybe I should have been more traditional. You know, got down on one knee and all. It still hurts a little to do that, but--”
“Oh, shut up,” she says, rolling her eyes, and she kisses him firmly on the lips.
“Is that a yes?” he asks unnecessarily.
“What do you think?”
Strangely, he actually takes her question seriously. “Um, well, we are a bit young, you know, Lily. We’re nineteen. And we’re in the middle of a war and everything...”
“I don’t care,” she says. “Of course I’ll bloody marry you.” She bites her lip, then, before adding, “It’s perfect timing, after all.”
“Wh-what do you mean?”
“I--” She hesitates, and then she says, “I’m pregnant, James.”
He is, predictably, as shocked as she was. “But the charm--”
“We forgot to use it.”
“Do you remember when we found out all those Muggles had... died?” she says. “You were drunk and we had fought, and, well…”
Realisation dawns on him. “Yeah. Oh, Merlin. That’s... we’re having a baby, Lily. A baby!”
“You don’t -- mind, then?”
“Lily, why on earth would I mind?” he asks, completely bewildered.
“Because... like you said, we’re in the middle of a war. And we’re still teenagers.”
“Just about. By the time he’s born, you’ll be twenty.”
“That’s true,” she admits. “I -- wow. We’re going to be parents.” The thought of being a mother both scares and excites her. What if she isn’t a good mother? Not to mention the birth itself -- she’s heard horrific stories of childbirth going wrong and so on. She shudders to think what could happen to her.
As if reading her thoughts, James reassures her. “You’ll -- we’ll -- be fine, Lily. Don’t stress about it. Really.”
And she smiles back at her new fiancé, thinking that maybe, just maybe, having a baby won’t be as difficult as she thinks.
“I love you, Harry,” she whispers to him. He gurgles in response, smiling a toothless smile that makes Lily’s heart skip a beat. He’s so blissfully oblivious to everything; he has no idea that the most evil wizard in the world is after him and determined to kill him, or that his parents narrowly escaped that very wizard earlier this week. And as Lily gazes at her son, holding on to him for dear life as he jumps up and down in her lap, she can’t help but wonder what could happen to him.
Because as much as she admires Dumbledore, their escape from Voldemort during Gideon and Fabian Prewett’s funeral was down to sheer luck, nothing else. She’s sure he could find a way around the protective charms surrounding their house, or he could do it through his mole in the Order. Lily doesn’t know who it is, but it scares her more than anything. Someone -- anyone -- in the Order could be Voldemort’s spy. It could be someone she went to Hogwarts with, for all she knows.
The worst thing is that she can’t even talk to anyone about her suspicions. James’s temper is far shorter than usual; he hates being cooped up inside the house most of the time, and when he does go out, Lily rows with him about putting himself in danger. If Lily voices her concerns about the Order to him, it would only make things even tenser between them, and she can’t stand that as it is.
“No,” she says out loud, and Harry, her baby Harry, looks up at his mother. “It doesn’t matter if our happiness has to suffer. Not if it means you’re safe, Harry,” she tells him. He lets out a little happy giggle, making Lily laugh as well. “I’ll keep you safe, Harry. I promise. Even if I have to die for you, I’ll keep you safe.” Tears are spilling from her eyes now, and Harry reaches out to touch his mother’s wet cheek, babbling nonsense to her in an attempt to placate her. His eyes are green, just like hers, and they probe her with that childish curiosity that Lily envies in her son.
Lily holds him close, hugging him to her tightly. “No one will take you away from me, Harry,” she tells him. He’s safe in her arms, and he always will be. She doesn’t want to let him go, afraid that the slightest slip-up, the tiniest mistake, the smallest betrayal from anyone will jeopardise Harry’s safety. At least -- at the very, very least -- in Lily’s arms, nothing and no one can harm her son, and above all, that is what matters the most.
Harry’s jabbering has stopped. Lily smiles; she can’t wait for the day when Harry says his first word. So far, it’s all been gibberish, and Lily loves babbling back to him.
He must be sleepy now, she thinks. But still, she doesn’t want to let him go, not wanting to forgo that warm, wonderful blanket of security that covers him.
Eventually, however, she loosens her hold on him a little -- and her heartbeat comes to a shuddering halt.
Harry isn’t breathing.
Don’t be stupid, she tells herself; of course Harry’s --
She feels for a pulse on both his tiny wrists and his fragile neck and his little chest... but she can’t feel anything.
“James. James!” she screams at the top of her lungs. Her throat hurts, but she shouts again, “JAMES!”
What is she supposed to do? Tears drip from her eyes, but she barely notices them as she tries to remember what to do. Think. She takes a deep breath before pressing two fingers to his chest, not knowing if she’s even doing it right, or in the right place (where the fuck is James?) but continuing to press and press and then covering his nose and mouth with her own mouth, trying desperately to breathe life back into her son while trying to ignore who was responsible for sapping that very breath out of him in the first place.
Lily goes back to chest compressions just as the door opens. James immediately rushes to Lily’s side, going down on his knees beside her. Each time she presses down on his chest, she emits a small sob.
“What’s happened, Lily?” he asks, breathing as heavily as if he had been running a race. When he speaks, she turns to him, and her beautiful face is streaked with glistening tears.
"He's--" She attempts to speak, but she can't find the words she wants to say as her fingers continue to pound against Harry's small chest. She can’t bear to say those words. Not when it’s all her fault.
James takes hold of his motionless son’s tiny wrist and feels for a pulse, and Lily looks away, unable to stand seeing James’s expression when he can’t find it. He then moves Lily’s hand from Harry’s chest, replacing it with his own.
“NO!” James yells. Wildly, he applies pressure against Harry’s soft chest with two fingers in the same way Lily had been doing. “Get Dumbledore,” he tells her. She nods once, scrabbling for her wand, but unable to perform a Patronus. How can she possibly think a happy thought now? “Lily -- we haven’t got time!” he bellows.
She wants to yell back, to tell him to be quiet lest he wakes Harry...
The thoughts whirl and whirl in her head, and she closes her eyes, thinking as hard as she can. It takes every single ounce of strength that she can muster in her tired body for her to finally conjure a Patronus strong enough to send a message to Dumbledore, and it canters away immediately. The minute that follows is the longest and most agonising minute of Lily’s life. James is still kneeling in front of Harry, trying his utmost, even now, to save him.
But Lily still can’t believe what she has done. If it wasn’t happening to her, she would have found the situation educational in its irony -- Lily Potter, self-proclaimed “protector” of her son, loves him so much that she has held him too tight. Harry could die. And it would all be her fault --
He’s not dead, a stronger voice in her head says. He’s not. Not yet. I won’t let him die.
“Let me,” she tells James suddenly, and without waiting for a response, she pushes him aside and starts doing chest compressions on him again.
Breathe, Harry, she begs silently to him. Please. For me. For us.
His little chest inflates as she breathes into him again, twice, and she watches shakily as her son coughs violently.
Harry starts to cry, and she has never, ever been so relieved to hear his wailing in her life.
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion.
--As You Like It, by William Shakespeare
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