Lily heard footsteps and hurried back into the
kitchen, so when James found her she was bent over the stove, innocently adding
basil to her pasta sauce. She knew the moment he put his hands on her waist and
rested his chin against her shoulder that she did not fool him, but that he was
“How did he take it?” she asked softly.
“Didn’t you hear?” He sounded exhausted.
“Not everything,” she admitted. “You were
talking very low.”
“He took it about as well as I’d expected.”
“Badly? But I didn’t hear any explosions.”
explode the way normal people do,” he told her tiredly. “He smolders for a
while, thinking he’s
all right, so when he finally goes off, it’s--that word, nook-leer.”
“Yeah, that. Anyway, I’m rather hoping he’ll
explode while he’s still here. Make things easier on Moony.”
“But Remus--” she’d never quite taken to the
nicknames her husband and his friends had bestowed upon one another “--is his
boyfriend. His partner. His--I don’t know. His--”
“And I’m his--”
He was interrupted by a crash from the
bedroom. They both jumped apart at the sound, then
exchanged a worried glance. A moment later Sirius emerged looking pale but
otherwise composed. He stood in the doorway for a moment, his gaze flickering
uncertainly over everything except the Potters. “Sorry about that mask thing,”
he said at last.
“Did you fix it?” James asked. “You know,” he
said, eyebrows raised, when Sirius finally looked at him blankly, “with your
The other man scratched at the back of his
neck. “Um, no.”
James sighed, then
shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, Pads. I’ll take care of it later. C’mon,
At the same time, Sirius said, “So what’s to
eat?” and Lily, who could contain herself no longer, blurted, “I’m so sorry,
Both her husband and his best friend fixed
their gazes upon her, the hazel mildly reproachful, the blue warningly, and she
found herself flushing. “Well, I am,” she went on doggedly, glaring back at
Sirius. “I’m sorry. Maybe you don’t want--”
He cut her off with a sharp, “Lily.” Then, as tears of
frustration burned her eyes and she was certain she looked like a damp tomato,
“Sorry,” he said, more gently. “I’m all right. Don’t get upset, Lils. It’s not worth it.” He walked tiredly to the table
and slumped into the nearest chair.
“But your brother,” she began, even though
James was poking her in the side and shooting her furtive shutupshutup
“Reg was a waster.”
Sirius’ voice was perfectly calm, and he did not look up as he spoke. “James is
Beside her, James made a small, painful sound
that had it come from the throat of anyone else in the world, she’d have
described as a bleat.
“Any beer?” Sirius asked pleasantly.
“I’ll get supper,” Lily said, a little
James watched Sirius carefully as they ate,
and Lily watched both of them. She’d never seen her husband so solicitous, and
so determined not to appear so. He refilled Sirius’ glass without ever needing
to be asked. He inquired about Remus, if the two of them had any plans for the
weekend. He asked about the motorbike. He was careful to avoid all mention of
the war, the Order, Death Eaters, or families of any sort. Sirius seemed
aware--his smiles were a little too indulgent, Lily thought, and his eyebrows
lifted a little too frequently--but he made no protest, and if James was aware
of Sirius’ awareness, Lily did not know.
They were like
brothers, she thought. Like twins, almost. They loved each other. Deeply. It
was beautiful to watch, but saddening to, because this was the side of James
with which she’d finally fallen in love, and this was the side he’d kept from
her for so many years. As far as she knew, only Sirius had seen it before her
and she supposed that on another night she’d have been jealous, but now she
found she could not be. Why James had hidden this compassionate, responsible
side she did not understand, could only be glad she’d discovered it in time.
If she was jealous of anything, she mused as
she twirled spaghetti on her fork and stole glances at the two men, it was the
strength of their friendship. Alice Longbottom was her own best friend, and she
loved the other woman very much, but they were not this close. They were not
sisters. Petunia, for all her foibles, was her sister and Lily could never
forget that, as angry and frustrated as she became, could never transfer that
designation to anyone else in the world. Maybe it was because even after eleven
years she clung to a stupid and sentimental hope that Petunia would someday
accept her and her world. Petunia’s marriage to Vernon Dursley
curtailed that hope quite a bit, but Lily was nothing if not optimistic, and
maybe, now that both she and her sister were pregnant…maybe something good could
come of that.
Reflexively, Lily slipped a hand under the
table and pressed it to her still-flat belly. She felt the baby rippling inside
her, and despite everything, found herself smiling, as
she almost invariably did when she thought about her unborn son or daughter.
Henry or Rose. Her child and James’.
mental,” he’d told her when she’d announced her pregnancy--inauspiciously, only
two days after he’d proposed.
“Mentality has nothing to do with it,” she’d
retorted. “It’s obviously not something I thought about. It just happened. Now,
we have to deal with it.”
“But how did it happen?” he’d demanded, and she’d regarded
him rather witheringly.
“How does it usually happen, James Potter?”
she’d snapped. “If I recall, Madam Pomfrey gave us
all the talk our sixth year. She told us how it happens, and she told us that
contraceptive charms have about a two per cent chance of failure. Or did you
skive off that particular lesson?”
“I was there,” James had grumbled. “Think I
spent most of it passing dirty pictures back and forth with Padfoot.”
And later, after they’d both said and taken
back quite a lot, “So, do we keep it, Lily?” he had asked, and she’d said, “I’m
keeping it. We’re getting married and keeping this baby.”
To which he’d replied wearily, “There’s a
bloody war going on, in case you hadn’t noticed,” and too tired to snap, she’d
said dryly, “Having chosen a side, I am very well aware of the fact that
there’s a war going on. I want to keep this baby anyway. People are dying, we
make more. Voldemort thinks only purebloods have the
right to live, we have this baby--you and me, a pureblood and a Muggle-born--and we raise him or her to be powerful and
loving and good. We show him. We show everyone.”
James had dropped his head into his hands at
that point. “Merlin,” he’d groaned. “Lily, that can’t be the right reason to
have a baby. We’re only nineteen.”
She’d sat down beside him on the bed and put
her arms around him. “I know,” she’d said, and then had been unable to come up
with anything wise or witty.
At length he’d said,
his voice muffled by his hands, even though by then he was leaning into her
embrace, “This is messed up, Lils. This isn’t how I
wanted it at all.” And when she’d poked him in the ribs because he still would
not look up at her, “All right, it’s probably not how you wanted it, either. I
wanted us to do everything right. Dating. Getting married. Honeymoon. Living
together. A baby…eventually, I guess, but not now. Not while there’s a war
“Why do we have to follow a script?” she’d
asked, beginning to falter. “Why can’t we play it by ear? I’m going to have
this baby, and I’m going to marry you. Let’s do that, and then we’ll start
doing things right. We’re only nineteen. That’s what you said. We have a long
time to get back on the right track. Don’t we? I mean,” she’d gone on, realizing
as she did that this conversation could only end badly, “what exactly is right?
There’s a war going on. How are things supposed to be done right when there’s a
war? And since when have you followed convention? Your best friend is a poof
and he’s in love with a werewolf. My sister’s having a baby in a few months.
Alice Longbottom and Molly Weasley are pregnant. It’s normal.”
He hadn’t looked up, so he hadn’t seen her
tears. He’d said cuttingly, “That’s not normal, Lily. That’s a bloody
They’d had a tense few days after that. He’d
sought refuge with Sirius, Remus, and Peter, and she’d cried out her confusion
on Alice’s shoulder, but they’d fumbled back to each other. They’d worked
through their differences, and a little before Christmas they’d had a beautiful
wedding. They’d been surrounded by friends and family--even Petunia had deigned
to appear--and it had been possible to forget, for a day at least, that there
was no war, that this might not be the last time they were all together and
happy. And in July they would have a beautiful baby. What it meant, James had
said just the other day, while rhapsodizing about his impending fatherhood, was
that they now had one more thing for which to fight. And that made them all the
die, Lily thought, stroking her belly and watching Sirius’ face,
and more people are born.
That’s just how it works. Somewhere inside her, an idea began to
After four pints, Sirius was yattering animatedly about Quidditch scores. After five he
was guffawing over the appalling tie Sandra Macnair
had bought for Peter, and his apparent need to wear it every day, wherever he
went. By six he was divulging to a decidedly queasy-looking James, the details
of his and Remus’ last day off together. James, Lily noticed, barely drank. She
had not been watching carefully, but she was quite certain he was still on his
first pint when Sirius slammed his seventh onto the table, causing the
silverware to rattle.
“M’not pissed,” he
said abruptly, glaring at the dark window.
“Nah, you’re not,” James agreed, putting his
own glass down carefully.
“M’not pissed ‘cause
m’not upset. M’not upset
‘cause there’s nothing t’be p’set
“Nah,” James said again, gently.
“Regulus was an
idiot.” His voice hitched on the name, and he blinked as though in surprise.
“Yeah, he was,” said James.
“Anyway, he wasn’t really m’brother.
You said he wasn’t. You’re my brother.” He looked at James then, his eyes wide,
bloodshot, and deeply pleading.
“Yeah,” said James, and rising, he kissed
Sirius’ forehead, and Lily felt her insides quake.
“He sent the Crups
after me,” said Sirius desperately. His face was hidden behind James’ broad
shoulder, but Lily heard the panicked edge in his voice and wished she could
close her ears. “He did, d’you remember? The night I
ran away. He said, ‘If you like playing the bitch so much, here’re some real
dogs.’ I told you that, remember? Fucking idiot. He was thirteen, then. He was
sixteen. I’m going to be twenty in two weeks. Long time ago, he used to think
he could catch up with me. Thought he’d finally b’able
to beat the shit out of me, the way I always beat the shit out of him. He’s
never going to be twenty. In a hundred fucking years he’s not going to be
twenty. M’not upset. S’pect
my folks are, though. There won’t be an owl from them, waiting for me at home.
If you hadn’t told me, I still might not know. Who the fuck becomes a Death
Eater at sixteen? Who the fuck decides to go killing
people at sixteen? What was I doing when I was sixteen? I was torturing Slytherins and banging impressionable young werewolves. And
they called me the
rebel. I ask you.”
Lily rose and touched James’ shoulder lightly.
He turned and they exchanged a glance; then he nodded and she went to the front
hallway where their owl, Gustavus, was perched. She
penned a quick note to Remus, attached it to Gus’s leg, then
sent him out into the cloud-choked winter night. Then she went to the bedroom,
found the spare duvet and pillows, and took them to the living room. As she
arranged them on the sofa she heard Sirius slur,
“Right coward he was. Scared to walk past all
them house-elf heads. When he was five. Or younger.
Don’t remember. So our dear old Mum in all her maternal wisdom charmed ‘em all to stare at him. Thought it’d cure the little
bugger. Bit of advice, Prongsy: don’t do that to the sproglet. Could use a fag. Moony made me quit, the bloody poofter. M’not pissed.”
“Nah,” said James.
“Poked their eyes out one night. The
house-elves. With my wand. Kreacher
caught me. Mum did her nut and put ‘em back. So I had
to hold his hand. His. Every fucking time he had to walk past that wall. D’you know what m’dear old Daddy
did when he found out? Said, ‘My sons’r’not…’ Can’t
say it f’Lily’s listening. Put a charm on our hands.
Burned whenever we touched. Fucking idiot.”
This time, James’ response was too low to
Lily sank onto the sofa, one pillow clutched
tightly against her belly.
“Why’d he tell Snivellus
about me and Moony? Snivellus.
Sent me an owl two weeks ago. Said he wanted to see me. Thought it was a trap.
No, I didn’t. I just didn’t want to see him. I think he wanted my help. I
didn’t want to help him. D’always help you, Prongs.
Always. You’re my brother.”
Lily jumped to her feet and strode back into
the kitchen. There she found Sirius slumped in his chair and James trying
without success to close his lax fingers around a glass of water.
she announced. They both looked up at her, James with relief, Sirius blearily,
and she remembered suddenly that she thought their nicknames were completely
stupid and made a conscious effort never to use them. “I think he is, anyway,”
she hedged. “I sent him an owl. And I made up the sofa.”
“Thank you,” James mouthed, over his shoulder.
Sirius smiled vaguely at her and grasped the water glass. He held it
contemplatively for a moment; Lily knew he was going to drop it about a second
before he did, and the shatter and splash in the otherwise silent room sent a
spear of cold through her heart.
“Sorry, sorry,” Sirius mumbled, bending to
gather the shards while they watched numbly. He cut his fingers. The bright red
droplets on the white porcelain tiles and Sirius’ muttered curse snapped them
back to life.
James shoved him out of the way wordlessly and
pulled his wand from his pocket. Lily grabbed a rag from the counter and pushed
it at him while her husband repaired the glass and cleaned up the water and the
blood with two quick spells. Then they each took an arm and hauled Sirius
bodily from the chair. He made no protest, did not speak a word until they had
him in the living room and were simultaneously pulling off his boots and
helping him onto the sofa. Then he began to babble again.
“We can’t get married, me and Remus,” he
confided as though it were some sort of physical malfunction. “I don’t know if
he wants to marry me, but I want to marry him, and I can’t. M’not
allowed.” He frowned and said reflectively, “We all broke into Filch’s office a bunch of times, and we weren’t allowed.
Why can’t I marry Remus, even though I’m not allowed?” He looked from one to
the other as though for an answer, but they hadn’t one, so he went on, “It’s
not fair, really. S’pect Umbitch
had something to do with that.”
“Don’t think so, mate,” said James softly,
holding Sirius’ hands clenched around the rag--something he seemed disinclined
to do voluntarily. “Not that, anyway.”
“I want to marry Remus,” Sirius said
plaintively and as though he had not heard. “Not that he wants to marry me. We can’t have
children. You know
why,” he added, eyeing James significantly.
As Lily watched, her husband turned several
shades of red in quick succession, but still managed to croak, “I suspect that
has something to do with the fact that you haven’t a fanny between you. It’s
one of the required components, you know. Just as well. Both ruddy plonkers, you are.”
“Yes,” said Sirius solemnly, and turned to
Lily. “I love you,” he said, and actually smiled when she started. “I love this
great pillock, too,” he added, jutting his chin in
James’ direction. “If you hurt him, I’ll kill you. I’ll kill him if he hurts
you. I said I’d kill Regulus, you know, but he
managed quite well on his own. Gormless git. The thing is,” he told her, frowning again, as though
he were concentrating very deeply on the point he was about to make, “the thing
is, Reg really was my brother. Prongs said he’d hit
me if I said that, but he was.” He paused expectantly, and after a minute of confused
silence, James cuffed him lightly on the shoulder. He went on, “And I think I’m
going to wind up killing Bella and Cissa. Which
leaves Andy and Ted and Dora. And me. And me and Remus
can’t have children, so it’s all on Dora’s shoulders. Moony doesn’t have any
brothers or sisters. So, my family can only get smaller.”
The flatness in his tone and the dryness of
his eyes gripped Lily by the heart, and wrung it painfully. It had taken her a
long time to care for this person, and she still had her reservations. He had
been one of the first to make her feel unwelcome her first year at Hogwarts.
Later she’d learned about his pureblood family and the hell they’d given him
after his Sorting into Gryffindor, but that knowledge would have meant nothing
to the hurt and confused eleven-year-old she’d been. He was reckless, rude, and
self-centered. But a part of her had always admired the loyalty and love he’d
shown James almost from the start, and when she’d finally understood it, his
ability to light Remus Lupin from within, as though the other man were a lamp.
Yes, he’d called her Mudblood more than once, but he
hadn’t in the last seven years and now he was fighting against the wizard who
wanted her and all Muggles, Muggle-borns,
and mixed-bloods dead. Yes, he’d been pretty horrible to her sister at her
wedding, and he still teased Peter Pettigrew mercilessly, but he’d been good to
her since she’d begun dating James and he’d been truly wonderful since she’d
become pregnant. At first she’d thought he only cared for her because she
belonged to James, was carrying James’ child. But three weeks ago there’d been
a Muggle-baiting in Lily’s parents’ neighborhood, and
the moment he’d heard, Sirius had gone straight to their house, had arrived
even before Lily and James. They’d found him sharing tea with the Evanses, and explaining to them calmly what had happened
and how they could protect themselves in future.
It must have been difficult for him, she
thought now as she and James tucked the duvet around his shoulders. His parents
would have despised hers; they despised their son because he could not. Still
he’d done it, had endured the entire encounter with aplomb and only revealed
afterward to James and Lily how very uncomfortable it had made him.
She’d have done the same for him. That, she
knew, did not equal love on either his part or hers. Still, there was mutual
trust and respect, and there was love for James binding them. Maybe that was
why she felt the need to do more for him now than she’d already done. Or maybe
it had something to do with the fact that he too belonged to James, and had
long before she. Maybe it had to do with the fact that broken, he was more
pitiful than anyone she had ever known. Maybe it was because he and Regulus could never now reconcile while she and Pet still
had a chance, or because if anything ever happened to James she would still
have his child and that was one comfort, however unthinkable, that Sirius and
Remus could never have.
Whatever the reason, she clasped his hands in
her own and said the one thing she could think to say that might make things
better for him.
They had just gotten Sirius to sleep when
Remus Apparated onto their front step. It was past
midnight. He’d come from the flat, but he hadn’t taken the time to change or
eat, had only grabbed up a change of clothing for himself and Sirius, and their
toothbrushes. He didn’t tell them what sort of Order-related business had kept
him away all day and half the night, politely refused their offers of food,
only hugged them both tightly, then went to Sirius, who hadn’t woken but had
twitched, then sighed in his sleep at the touch of his lover’s hand upon his
When James and Lily left them they were
spooned like littermates on the sofa, Remus arms tight around Sirius’ chest,
and there were tears tangled in the long, down swept black lashes.
“He was crying in his sleep,” Lily said as,
the lights finally extinguished, she climbed into bed beside her husband and
rested her head on his chest. “He couldn’t cry in front of us. He was waiting
for Remus. Should we not tell him?” James was silent, but he was not asleep;
his fingers toyed with the end of her long night plait. Lily took that as a no and because she found the
silence discomforting, added, “He didn’t explode. He just sort of fizzled.”
“Well,” James said as he stroked her hair,
sounding a breath away from sleep, “I think that’s mostly your fault. Most do find him irresistible when
he’s in drenched-puppy mode, but you? What possessed you? Godfather?”
“It was all I could think to say. Anyway, I
think he’ll be a good one. Don’t you?”
“Well, it’s not like we’re asking him to do
something he wouldn’t have done anyway. He already considers himself an uncle.
Remus told me the other day their closet’s half-full of baby gifts. And I know
he’s written at least three lullabies. If anything happens to us…” He paused,
and Lily waited, but he never completed the sentence. Instead he went on with a
cheer that sounded only slightly forced, “He’s crazy about the kid. You saw his
face. Should’ve heard him talking, too, when we were out…yesterday, was it?
Merlin, it’s been a long couple of days.”
“D’you think he’ll
be all right?”
The fingers playing with her hair were
beginning to slow. “Yeah, I think so.”
“Are you worried about something?”
She shrugged. “It’s cold. It’s going to get
warmer, though. Soon, I think. It’ll be summer when our baby is born. Henry or
“Harry,” James mumbled softly.
“Harry. Just like it better. I’m James Henry.
Let the kid be Harry James. If it’s a boy. Something
different.” He yawned. “And if it’s a girl…mmm…Dandelion.”
“How about a compromise? Primrose.”
Lily pinched him.
“It’ll be all right, m’dear.”
“Promise. But I lied before. When you asked if
I was worried. I’m not, really. I was just thinking tonight, how it would be
living without my brother. I couldn’t bear it, Lils.
I didn’t want to say anything and upset him, but I can’t imagine my life
without him. Or you. Especially not you. I’d die to
keep you safe. You, him, our baby. It’s a little
frightening, having this many people for whom I’d die. That’s the bloody
problem with loving people, I guess. But we do it anyway. I guess that’s what
makes us better than our enemies?” He yawned. “Blimey. Lils,
tell me to shut up.”
“I love you.”
“S’not the same.”
“Isn’t it?” She snuggled against him. “I love
you,” she whispered again.
They were quiet after that, and presently Lily
felt James’ heartbeat steady, and the rise and fall of his chest became deeper.
It was one of her few comforts these days, falling
asleep to the rhythm of his breathing. She felt sandwiched between him and her
baby, as though between them they were guarding her, keeping her safe. She knew
James did not like to hear it, but she was willing to die for either of them,
for the man she had once despised and the child she did not yet know. But that
thought too was oddly comforting. Her last conscious thought was for her child,
and it was, You’re well-protected, my love, and now
you have three people who’d do anything in the world for you. So, sleep without