Chapter 1 : Home
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I have never really written romance before – besides one story, and then I feel like I've only brimmed the surface. There are six copies of this same idea bumming around on my computer – ranging from sad to humorous to perfect examples of why I should not write things a 3 am after two cups of coffee. This is, in my opinion, the best by far – as I enjoyed immensely writing it, I hope you enjoy it too.
As with all the drills – I own none of these characters. This idea prompted from the Jily Challenge posted by sour_grapes_snape; Prompt being Lily and James after Hogwarts. Oh, and a lovely picture of a Scottish stag in my desktop, thanks to a very lucky friend of mine who is currently there on exchange.
In the end, it had been Sirius who had clued her in to the fact that James was not going to be following them anytime soon. She would never known if he meant to or not.
“Sometimes he just needs his space, Lils.” He said as he and James' other two friends, Remus and Peter, walked up the sloping path from the cemetery towards the designated apparition point at the gate, gravel crunching underfoot as they shuffled along in solemn procession, strangely subdued. “It's nothing personal.”
“I didn't think it was.” She replied, shrugging her coat higher up onto her shoulders in an attempt to brace herself against the chilly November wind. Without hesitation, Sirius slung his arm around Lily's shoulders, giving them a light squeeze in a fumbling mockery of what James would had done if he had joined them on the walk out. Lily didn't comment on how he pressed down so hard he'd almost sent her stumbling, or that he reeked of petrol and cigarette smoke. It was the thought that counted, so she didn't say anything. It was probably hitting him hard, too. As hard as if they actually been his parents. And yet...
“'Course you didn't.” Sirius didn't sound at all convinced, but in light of the situation he too seemed to be taking a higher road. “Come on. I say we head out for a pint and before you know it he'll be along to join us.”
Lily did her best to hide her frown by turning into the crook of Sirius's arm. She didn't feel much like dashing around with the boys, although a part of her wondered if she should, if only to keep an eye on them. They had a nasty habit of letting things go to far, especially when emotions were running high. It was Remus, usually the most sensible and the one she turned to when she needed another voice of reason to weigh in on horrible schemes, who came to her rescue this time.
“Padfoot, do you honestly think Lily'd like to be dragged around whatever dive you plan on touring tonight? Half those places leave me disgusted...”
“Well...you're a right prude, so that's no surprise!” With his free arm, Sirius elbowed Remus, a playful jab that still sent the spindlier man skidding. Glancing sideways, Lily could see that he was grinning, but it didn't quite meet his eyes. “You might have a point though...Lil's is a lady, after all...and ol' Prong's probably have my head for keeping her out after hours or something barmy. Poor fool.”
“I think I'd rather just head home, actually.” With an excuse at the ready, she would be a fool not to take it. “I'm really - I'd rather wait for James. You know, for when he's ready for...for less space.”
“You might be waiting a long time then, Lily.” Peter squeaked. “Never seen James off like he was – oof!”
Sirius' cuff to Peter had landed solidly upside his head – she wasn't entirely sure it was accidental. “Nothing to worry about, really. I know, you're worried; hasn't left you alone since fourth year and all, but it's nothing. Really. And if you don't want to come out with us then, well...we can always just tie a few on back at the house.”
“I think I might just...read a bit, actually.” Lily continued with a shake of her head. “Healer Quarterlies...I'll be taking my Exams in January, after all.”
“Ah...then...you'll just be waiting alone, then?” Sirius' arm dropped from around her shoulder. Instantly, she felt just a little bit lighter; a literal weight having been lifted. “You don't think one of us should...”
“I'm fine. Really.” She noticed that Remus and Peter were both giving her sceptical looks. “I've been home alone loads of times. And I know how to set the wards. James' isn't the only one who likes a bit of peace and quiet once in a while.”
“But, Lily. If you want company, we don't mind. I don't mind, certainly...” Remus was always the most reluctant to leave anyone out of things. “Tonight, of all nights, and if James doesn't get back until morning.”
“Oh, shush...I'm a big girl.” She smiled and shrugged it off. “You have fun without me...and please...no showing up after 'tying' a few on? It's only one night. Nothing the matter with that.”
“Well...If you're sure.” Even Sirius sounded reluctant – and he had been so gung-ho only moments before to drown whatever unpleasantness he was feeling after the days' events. “Because really it's no - ”
“He didn't tell you to keep watch over me or something stupid like that, did he? Because I thought I made myself very clear in sixth year exactly what I would do to anyone James Potter set to spy on me? You should certainly remember, Sirius. You were the one in the hospital wing for a week and a half.” Maybe it was childish, but it certainly would work. And...maybe she got the smallest glimmer of glee to see a grown man such as Sirius Black flinch even the tiniest bit at the merest memory of old school rivalries.
“Right. Hmph. Well, I suppose if you want you're time alone too, then there's no harm in that. Everyone grieves in different ways. Who'm I to judge.”
“That's right. We'll catch up tomorrow, alright?” Before she could lose her nerve, Lily beneath the archway of the open cemetery gate. She was about to turn on the spot, and pop away into nothingness, when she thought better of it, and addressed the boys one last time.
“If you see him before I do...tell him I'll be waiting up.”
It was a quarter to midnight when she finally set aside the last of her manual and tidied up the sprawled pages of notes with a flick of her wand, before setting it in it's customary spot atop the bookshelf and stood to stretch. Her body kinked in protest, easing out every tense spot and cramped muscle after several hours spent in study, as her eyes darted to the clock to confirm exactly how long she had pushed on.
The clock had been a wedding present from James' parents; a fact she remembered when she realized how bare it seemed now with four hands instead of the six she had been accustomed to. Aldric Potter had beamed when he had showed them his handiwork; melding together the Muggle and wizarding ideas to create 'the ultimate family timepiece', as he'd called it. She hadn't had the heart to inform him that the long hand was typically reserved for minutes, and the shorter for the hours – and after a few months of reminding herself to read it backwards it had pretty much ingrained itself in her memory anyways.
While two of the hands ticked away the hours and minutes, she looked from them, up one spindly golden arm engraved with her own name to where it pointed at the outer rim of lettering, to 'Home'. And then, unable to help herself, she found it's twin and traced it out to the word 'Travelling'.
He still hadn't shown up. And Travelling meant, well...it meant he could be anywhere, didn't it? At a quarter to midnight, there was still no sign of her husband. And she had absolutely no clue where he was, or why...
Why he hadn't just come home.
He had to at some time. She had faith in that. She would wait the entire night if she had to, but he'd come home. And maybe she'd give him a stern talking to when he did. After all, it was as good as midnight. A quarter until tomorrow started, and he had left her to her own devices after an awful day and left her spare wondering what he was up to. Her mind could conjure all sorts of terrible things – Attacks, injury...death, even. Her mother had been fond of dramatic daytime drama's that had given her all sorts of ideas about what exactly could go wrong in relationships. For all she knew, he could have fallen down a cliff, or gotten amnesia, or was going around with some blonde housewife from Kent.
She would make him pay for thinking this horrible things when he came home...
When he finally did come home.
She groaned, snaking one hand up to her neck to kneed away at a particularly resilient kink that seemed uninclined to budge. The minute hand ticked away, and continued to give her no answers as to how to fix her predicament. Things were so much easier, she thought sadly, [i]when I knew well enough to just hate him. This...love...this marriage? It was going to drive her spare, in the end. The things I put up with from you, James Potter.
Unable to keep vigil at the clock, she tried to walk around, working out the residual tiredness in her body and doing something, anything to keep busy. She walked from the study, into the living room and finally into the kitchen, with some vague idea about making coffee in order to pass the time. Perhaps she'd even do it the muggle way, to kill even more time. It took her three minutes to remember that she hadn't actually brought a brewer with her from her apartment, but she supposed if she took out a saucepan and boiled the water on the stove, it couldn't be that different.
Shuffling around was something. It stopped her from thinking and forced her into doing, which was a state in which she could almost pretend things were normal. She had finished digging in the cupboards, triumphantly emerging with a small pot in her hands when something outside the lacy windows caught her eye. A shadow. Movement.
Something was out there.
But that was impossible. Nothing could get past the wards. Aldric had set them himself, and James had updated them recently. She might have been the charms expert in the house, but he'd been the one to show her how those particular ones had worked. They required an ancestry and magical pedigree that, for all the skill she did possess, she just couldn't conjure. Nothing dangerous could have gotten on the property; not without giving her fair warning.
She wasn't waiting for something dangerous, though.
Sneaking in the back way, are you? She thought with a huff. Well, let's see about that... She wasn't so far past her Prefecting days that someone was about to sneak in to their house unawares. James should have known better too – seeing as she had easily caught him out more times than she had any other student, Sirius included.
Making her way back around to the drawing room, she retrieved her wand from atop the desk, just in case. You didn't go anywhere without a wand nowadays, and she had half a mind to hex him for making her worry about him. Maybe if she glued his feet to the floor, he'd remember to stay home more often. In any case she felt safer with it in hand, as she crept towards the backdoor and undid the lock.
“Ha!” She shouted, somewhat childishly, as she swung the door outwards, expecting to find a sheepish and totally repentant James on the doorstep, fumbling with some sort of apology, or perhaps that lopsided grin she so loved but hadn't seen in so long. However, no one waited for her on the doorstep.
In fact, the only sign that she wasn't completely alone was a twitching shadow in the darkness, that froze as soon as she'd flung the door open and all but disappeared into the darkness. Her heart caught somewhere in the vicinity of her throat, confidence draining from her as fast at she'd gotten it, panic taking it's place.
“Who's there?” The words came out croaked, as Lily found her mouth to me suddenly very dry. Whatever it was shifted, stepping forward only so far as so she could see how large a thing it was, without getting a clue on what. She hesitated, wondering if she should just step away and shut the door. Maybe think of Flooing Sirius, or seeing if any of her friend's were home yet.
What she did instead, was raise her wand. “Lumos.”
The yard was bathed in a soft yellowish light, guided by the tip of her wand. She squinted against the sudden brightness, and further into the yard, heard something, whatever it was, grunt. Saw it shift nervously and toss a large, ragged head, eyes wide.
It was a stag. An unlikely creature to find on the property, especially because while the estate backed on an expanse of trees it was hardly big enough to house anything bigger than a couple of rabbits, and the occasional curious fox. It was taller than her by at least a head an a half – not including a massive bracket of antlers that jutted out on either side; wickedly pointed and no doubt useful in getting rid of any sort of trouble stupid enough to challenge it. Dark-furred and shaggy, it seemed strangely still, occasionally shifting on its' front hooves even as it stood sizing her up. As if it was waiting, or nervous, or -
“James?” It came out as no more than a whisper, really. Lily shifted her wand so it no longer aimed directly between the creature's eyes and it blinked – eyes a paler brown than she believed was normal for a wild deer. It stepped forward, dipping it's head ever so slightly as it did so, almost in a gesture of humility.
She should have known, really. But then again, how could she? She knew, of course, most of what the Marauders had gotten up to in school. She knew about poor Remus, and she had seen both Sirius and Peter change into furrier counterparts before (the former took great pride, she knew, in having perfected the 'hangdog' look in both forms, and always tried to pass it off on her whenever he'd done something wrong). She even knew why James' had earned the name 'Prongs' – but she had never asked him to show her. That was always something different. That, of course...was a Marauder's tradition, and she might have married their ringleader and made her peace with them, but that didn't mean she had become one, by any stretch of the imagination.
It was certainly strange, then, to see it now – taking in a wild, powerful animal that nonetheless had a undeniable spark of humanity in it's eyes. It was tempting to look for bits of James in the shaggy face, besides the eyes. A similar set to the elongated jaw, or the scraggly, strangely dark fur. She stifled a snort when she thought that, perhaps that the most familiar feature was that they both shared knobbly knees.
That was when the stag – Prongs, James – stopped, only a foot or so away from the door. It's head craned at just about her level, but still she felt like she was being dwarfed. They were in stalemate for what felt like ages, one waiting for the other to make the first move. Lily hardly dared breath; because she was awed by what she saw, but also because she'd never exactly been fond of the musky, animal smell she equated to anything even remotely horse-like after spending a few too many summers visiting her uncle's farm. Eventually though, she stretched out her hand, and he didn't flinch away.
“You...idiot!” She smacked him on the tuft of fur that grew between his eyes – the best, she could equate, to giving him a nice cuff on the head without running into antler. James obviously hadn't been expecting it, as he snorted – ears flicking back and eyes widening, clearly shocked. But that would be nothing compared to a moment later, as she slipped her arms around the thicker ruff of fur along the muscular neck. “You bloody prat! You had me scared half to death! I thought something'd happened to you!”
A warm, moist breeze tickled the side of her neck, as James huffed something unintelligible. It felt strange, but not nearly as odd as the shift of skin and fur and sinew under her arms as it trembled and shrank and reformed itself into something else entirely. Unable to see the glow from her wand, Lily could only suppose what was happening, until she felt two arms snake there way along her waist and pull her tighter against a cool, definitely human shoulder.
“I'm sorry.” A deliciously familiar voice murmured into her ear. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to worry you – I thought you'd be asleep - ”
“And how long has it been since I've slept without you?” She replied, glibly. A part of her nagged that maybe she should be sticking with her promise to be infuriated with him, but she just could seem to listen to that part of herself, not now. “I was worried, after the funeral...”
“I just needed some time alone.” James finally let her go after placing a light, slightly distracted kiss on the side of her neck. “It's just, well...”
“It's you're parents.” Lily supplied, knowingly, not nearly so ready to let go of him after waiting so long for him to come back. “Did you honestly not think I could understand that? It's not like you're alone in this. Sirius loved them – and I loved them too.”
“Yeah, well...” He shuffled nervously on the step, and finally, Lily let her arms relax from around his neck, placing one hand on his arm instead. “I didn't want to worry you.”
“Fine job you did at that.” She snorted. “First you don't come home, then I suspect some massive burglar – then I worry about being trampled by a mad animal!”
He almost smiled at that, even in the dim light she could see the corners of his mouth tug slightly upwards. “I'll have you know that Prongs is very well behaved.”
“Hopefully better than Padfoot at least.”
“He's still not allowed to roam freely in the house.”
Lily stepped backwards over the threshold, waiting for James to follow though. “You, however, can come in. I've waited long enough.”
“You're sure, now? Once you ask me in, I'm not likely to ever leave again anytime soon.” He allowed her fingers to trail down his arm until he caught her hand in his own, long fingers slightly dirty, but Lily didn't seem to mind at all.
“Just what I was hoping you'd say.”
The door clicked shut behind them, locking into place with a careful flick of her wand, before she abandoned it on the drawing room desk once more. As they walked through the house, dimming lights, James rested his arm gently across her shoulders, tucking her neatly against him as if she had always fit there, and always would.
The clock on the mantlepiece struck twelve. Finally, the spiralled golden hands, one mismatched pair of short and long, and two intricately carved golden spikes rested on the same spot.
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