The Sugar Quill
Author: Briteyes (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Afternoon of Delights  Chapter: default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Author’s Note: I do not have, or pretend to have, any rights to these characters. All characters herein belong to JK Rowling. I don’t even know where to find fickleberries. Many, many thanks to Doctor Cornelius for his beta-reading and helpful suggestions.

***
    It had probably been the worst Christmas break Harry had suffered through in years. Of course, he’d been spoiled the last few years at Hogwarts, having at least one friend to share it with. But, as luck would have it, this year Ron had gone to be with his family, as had Hermione, and Harry ended up being the only Gryffindor in the tower. And he was bored. Bored beyond belief.
    He paced the Common Room mindlessly, kicking at a chair as he passed it. It was awful, to be so lonely on Christmas night. True, he’d gotten a few nice presents, but what he really wanted was to share them with someone. After all, he couldn’t play chess against himself.
    To top off his gloomy mood, Harry couldn’t sleep. Not a wink. It was close to two o’clock in the morning, and still he was wide awake. Sighing deeply, he trudged back up the steps to his dorm. He started to get back into bed, but stopped. Why bother tossing and turning all night? he thought.     Harry grabbed a pair of old trousers and a shirt, and pulled them on. He grabbed his wand and Invisibility Cloak, consulted his map (not even Filch was up!), and stomped out of the tower for a long walk.
    Harry had never seen the castle so deserted. Every one of the portraits was asleep, not a person or ghost stirred, even the very air seemed stagnant. While wandering through the familiar halls, Harry noticed a wooden door on his left. He paused—he didn’t remember a door here. Could he be in a different part of the castle? After studying the doorway for a few seconds, he shrugged and pushed it open.
    The door led to a small, dark, cramped corridor. Harry lit his wand, and found he had to sidle along like a crab to fit through; but after fifty feet, the hall took a sharp turn, and widened enough for him to walk normally. He continued on, through several twisty, barren passages, before finding himself in a large, plush, and completely unfamiliar hallway. White columns lined the wide foyer, and the carpet was thick and lavishly decorated. Bending down, Harry could see the woven unicorns moving—tilting with lions over jeweled crowns. Besides the columns and rugs, there were statues made of highly-polished marble, and the doorframes were gilt-edged. It was the most magnificent place Harry had ever seen.
    Racing up and down the corridor, Harry gave a few good leaps and spins, allowing the cloak to twirl about him. Having worked off some of his energy, he leaned against a column and sighed. He knew he needed to find his way back soon, but hated to leave the opulent corridor. Maybe I’ll take just one more look, he thought, then I’ll go back and try to get some sleep.
    He walked up and down the hall, and finally picked a door at random. It turned out to be a bathroom—an amazing bathroom, better than the prefects’ bathroom, but a bathroom nonetheless. Harry closed the door and chose another.
    This time, he stepped into a fantastic hall of mirrors. All of the surfaces, save the ceiling and the floor, were mirrored. He was amazed to see his reflection in about half of them. Most reflected nothing back at him until he lowered the hood of his cloak. Curious, Harry covered himself back up, and took a closer look at one of the mirrors that still reflected his image. An older version of himself stared back—taller, with slightly more defined features. Hmm, he thought wryly, not too bad… He took off his cloak, and looked in another mirror, which showed him just as he was. A third mirror, in an elaborate frame, caught his eye. It was clouded by a silvery haze, and the reflection rippled slightly. Something about the mirror seemed vaguely familiar, and Harry saw the inscription over it:

Maerd Tsed No Frou Yesp Milgy Amuoy Sru Ohla Reve Srof

    Harry stood there, puzzled. The mirror looked almost exactly like the Mirror of Erised, but the inscription wasn’t right… and he didn’t see his parents in it. He stared at the inscription for a moment, and slowly it dawned on him. He turned to the mirror immediately behind it, and read the inscription in the reflection:

forS eveR alhO urS youmA ygliM pseY ourF oN desT dreaM

    Chuckling, Harry turned and stood before the elaborate mirror again. He grinned triumphantly as he reached out a hand to the shimmering surface—
    —and suddenly, he felt himself being sucked in by his fingertips. Inky blackness streaked by him, then with a thud, Harry hit the ground, sprawling. He got to his feet, straightening his glasses and brushing off his clothes. Looking around, he noticed that it was now late spring, and he was in Hogsmeade, just outside the Three Broomsticks pub.
    "Something’s wrong here," Harry muttered to himself. "Two years ago my dream was to go to Hogsmeade, not now…" His words trailed off when he noticed the pub’s paint was no longer peeling, but shiny and new. In fact, he didn’t remember it being quite that shade of blue…
    "James?" a woman’s voice behind him called.
    Startled, Harry turned. The young woman behind him jumped.
    "Oh! I’m terribly sorry, you looked just like my—oh… goodness…" Her voice trailed off as she crouched down and studied Harry’s face intently. "I-I’m sorry, that was really quite rude of me. You just—you look almost exactly like my fiancé. He’s a few years older than you are, of course, and he has brown eyes, but still… It’s uncanny. You could be his long-lost brother—or son, even!"
    Harry just stared at the woman, nodding slightly. He was transfixed—her long, copper hair was pulled back in a ponytail, her creamy skin had a few scattered freckles across the bridge of her nose, and her eyes were…
    "…As green as mine," he murmured. The woman smiled. "My eyes, right?" She gave a light laugh. "I get a lot of comments about them. You’re the only other person I’ve seen with eyes that green. My sister used to tell me I was the milkman’s child, but I think that was just wishful thinking. Our    grandmother was supposed to have green eyes, too." With that, she stood up and offered her hand. "I’m Lily Evans. My fiancé and some of our friends were supposed to meet me here. Why don’t you come in and have a drink with us? I’d like for James to see you, if you don’t mind.
    Thanks, I-I’d love that," Harry managed, and followed Lily into the pub.


    Inside the Three Broomsticks, Harry waited at a large table while Lily bought two butterbeers. She’s-she’s my mother! MY mother! Harry kept telling himself this, but could hardly believe it. Lily was so beautiful, so warm and alive… Everything about her seemed to sparkle, she was so full of energy. He watched her chatting with Rosmerta, 15 years younger and absolutely stunning as well.        Lily’s laugh, like a ringing bell, carried across the room from the bar. Harry was practically beside himself.
    Lily brought the beers over to the table. "Here you go. And, er, I’m sorry, I’m afraid I didn’t catch your name."
    "Oh, right! I’m Harry."
    "Harry… hmm, that’s a nice name," she murmured thoughtfully, sipping her drink, before turning her full attention to him. "You must be a student at Hogwarts, then?" Harry nodded, and she continued. "I finished there a few years ago."
    "Yeah," he said brightly. "I’m in fifth year. We must have just missed each other."
    "Just!" she agreed. "What house are you in? I was a Gryffindor."
    "I know—I mean, I’ve heard. I’m a-a Gryffindor, too." Harry pinched his thigh under the table. That had been close—a little too close, but a sudden commotion near the door cut the awkward moment short.
    "Don’t worry mates, the fun can start now!" a voice boomed. Harry and Lily turned. Three hauntingly familiar men, all in their early twenties, had burst in. In the middle was a handsome man, tall and well-built, with dark, shaggy hair and his arms outstretched triumphantly. On his left, a lanky, sandy-haired man stood back, grinning, as a spry, slightly shorter man off to the right yelled, "Yeah, I’m gettin’ married and all drinks are on him!"
    The few people in the pub laughed and cheered as the first man shook a fist at his friend in mock anger, then pulled both of them over to the bar. Lily leaned across the table to the astonished Harry.  "That’s Remus Lupin, he’s a bit quiet at first, but great fun. That one there, he’s Sirius Black, James’ best friend. A real character but loyal through and through. And this," she leaned back as the third man approached the table, "is James Potter. James, dear, this is my new friend, Harry. I’ve decided to run off with him, so go tell Sirius he can stop buying rounds."
    James laughed, put down his drinks, and extended a hand to Harry, who jumped up to shake it.  "Cheers, mate," he said with a slight trace of a Yorkshire accent. "You’ve stolen a hell of a woman from me." He eyed Harry’s face a moment, and added, "Must be the devastatingly good looks. Oi, Sirius! C’mere!" James leaned down slightly so his face was level with Harry’s. "Look at this. I’ve got myself a twin!"
    Sirius, followed by Remus, carried even more drinks over to the table. "Bloody hell, Prongs. You and Lily been breeding behind our backs?"
    James snickered, but Lily slapped Sirius on the arm. "That’s enough, you’re embarrassing him!" Sirius raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips, but sat down obediently. Remus followed suit, taking the chair on Harry’s right, but James draped himself right across Lily’s lap and kissed her gently. The sight of his parents together, gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes, nearly made Harry choke on his drink. In that fleeting moment, Harry saw his father perfectly serious, his mischievous grin replaced by a brave, determined look. That’s the man who stood up to Voldemort… he died for her, and me… he loved us that much…
    James suddenly hopped up and grabbed his own chair, between Lily and Remus. "Sorry, where’re my manners? Boys, have you met Harry? Harry, er…?"
    "Jameson. Harry Jameson," he blurted, before he realised what he was saying. Well, at least I didn’t give them my real name, he reasoned, and I can't very well lie to my father…! "I’m, er, a student at Hogwarts."
    "And a Gryffindor to boot!" Lily added, and James nodded.
    "Our old house," he said, sighing wistfully.
    "Welcome then, Harry, Son of James!" Sirius intoned dramatically, with a deep bow, before remarking to Remus, "Kinda fitting, innit?"
    "Hey," protested Harry weakly. Remus gave him a sympathetic half-shrug as he finished his first pint of butterbeer.
    "Sorry, but it must be hard knowing you’ve got to go through life looking like that prat," Sirius gibed. "Those even look like his old glasses!"
    James took off his tortoise-shell frames and examined them. "Yeah, and if you hadn’t hexed that Bludger, I’d still be wearing them!"
    "Me, interfere with a Quidditch match? Never!"
    "Wormtail did that," Remus cut in.
    "Right, and Snape’ll be my best man!" James whooped. Even Harry and Lily burst out laughing.
    "Speaking of Peter," Lily asked, turning to James, "wasn’t he supposed to be here?"
    "Dunno… thought so. Any of you seen him?"
    "Hey Rosmerta!" Sirius hollered. "You seen any rats in your cellar?"
    "Of course I bloody haven’t!" came the reply.
    "Nope, hasn’t been here," James whispered to himself.
    "Our wedding’s in less than a week! He couldn’t have forgotten it." Lily began to wring her hands.
    "Yes, he could have."
    "Is his memory that bad? Have you tried a Remembrall?" offered Harry, thinking of Neville.
    "Ohh, yes," moaned Lupin.
    "One year for his birthday we only gave him about six dozen of them," Sirius said, taking another pint.
    "Lost all of them within a month. I’ve no idea how he managed it."
    "What are we going to do? James, he wanted to be our ringbearer!" Lily was now practically hysterical.
    "Ringbearer?" scoffed Sirius, turning to her.
    "Yeah, he wanted to scurry up the aisle with the rings tied to his tail—er, tailcoat." James broke off and glanced at Harry, who was grinning knowingly at him. He winked back and went on, "but as I was about to tell Lil here, it’s a Muggle tradition that we can do without if he doesn’t show."
    "Maybe you can ask Molly Weasley for one of her boys?" suggested Remus.
    "She and Arthur can’t make the wedding—their youngest is too small, and Molly’s expecting again…" Lily rushed. James reached over and took one of her fluttering hands in his own.
    "Again?" gasped Sirius. "This will be what, their fourth?"
    "And fifth," chimed in Harry. Everyone at the table stared at him. ‘I, er, heard they were having twins."
    "Well, Arthur always did want a large family," Remus commented, helping himself to his second pint.
    "And he’s certainly got it! I reckon there’s enough ginger there for a whole Irish village," quipped James, as Lily glared at him. "Whoops, sorry, forgot. No redhead humour."
    "No, it’s not that… I’m just, you know, nervous about the wedding, especially now that Peter’s missing…"
    "He’s been missing-in-action quite frequently lately, hasn’t he?" Remus mused, leaning forward thoughtfully.
    "Hmm, yes, he has…" murmured James.
    "If I were you, Lil, I’d be more concerned about the reception. I hear Hagrid got a tip on where to find some green Fwoopers," Sirius grinned maniacally.
    Lily’s eyes got very wide. "Why, you—they’ll sing the guests mad! If you’ve done anything to ruin my—Sirius Black, I will personally—" her voice reached a high pitch and broke suddenly, as she fought to hold back tears.
    "Uh-oh, bridal hysterics! Rosmerta! One gin and gillywater, now!"
    Rosmerta came rushing over with a drink, which Lily gulped half of gratefully, then set down, taking deep, calming breaths.
    "Ah, the two best things to come from Muggledom—Bombay gin and Lily Evans," Rosmerta chuckled. "Hope you boys haven’t been too hard on her?"
    Sirius leaned back in his chair, and put his arm about Rosmerta’s waist. "Of course not, luv. Wouldn’t dream of it." He looked up at her innocently. "Say, you wouldn’t happen to get off soon? I hear they rent rooms here by the hour."
    Rosmerta playfully shoved his arm away. "Oh, off with you, you’re bad for business. One of these days, you’ll convince me, and I’ll lose me pub." She turned to the rest of the table, and surveyed the group of mugs, both empty and filled. "Can I get you anything else, or do you think you have enough?"
    "Anybody want anything? Harry? Want some mead?" asked James.
    "No, don’t get him drunk, James, he’s too young for that," Lily admonished in a surprisingly stern tone. "Harry, have you tried one of Rosmerta’s fickleberry sodas? They’re my favourite—they change colours with every sip!"
    "I think I can handle another Butterbeer, but thanks anyway, Mum."
    Harry kicked himself under the table. Bugger! Luckily, everyone else at the table burst out laughing, except for Lily, who blushed scarlet.
    "She guzzles gin like a Muggle, but if any of the blokes wants an extra pint or two, she gets all huffy. And to think I’m marrying this woman!" But James leaned over and tenderly kissed Lily on the forehead.
    She flashed him her beautiful smile. "This from the man who snuck out and had twelve pints of mead—his first night as a prefect! You barely drank water after that."
    "That explains why you didn’t come ‘round much that year," snickered Rosmerta. "And here I thought you were busy with Quidditch. Anyhow, if you lot need anything, you know right where to find me."
    "I certainly do," grumbled Sirius, eyeing her as she walked away. Harry noticed that Rosmerta’s hips seemed to sway more than usual with Sirius watching her.
    "Cor, guv, I think you’re in there!" James leered.
    "Shove it, Potter," Sirius growled.
    Remus and Harry exchanged bemused looks; meanwhile, James stroked Lily’s hand. There seemed to be a lull in the conversation, so Harry finished his butterbeer and sat back to observe them.
    "So, Lil, is everything else all worked out for your big day?"
    "Oh, mostly, I think, Remus. The hall is being done all in green ivy, with white bunting and gold touches. Apparently, Hagrid had quite a time with the ivy—or rather, the Devil’s Snare someone planted with it—" she shot a glance at Sirius, who feigned innocence, but gave a thumbs-up to Lupin as soon as she’d turned away, "—but everything else will be put into place after the students leave, and that will leave time to finish the decorating and getting the food ready."
    "If everything’s taken care of, then why are we all here early?"
    "Because I need to enjoy my last days as a free man."
    "James!" Lily wailed through her glass.
    "Driving her to drink already? Hey, Moony, I reckon he’s set a new record."
    Lily kneaded her forehead. "I’m here to ask a favour of Dumbledore. And, yes, I wanted to spend some time with you lads before—"
    "Before you chain him up in the cellar?"
    "Before he changes his mind?"
    James, seeing the look on Lily’s face, raised his hand to quiet his friends. "Before times get any worse," he said somberly. "We’ve been fairly sheltered the last few years, but it’s getting nasty out there, and I know we’re going to be affected. Things always get worse before they get better, and it’s all going to start changing soon. I’m dead certain about that." He looked down for a second, then raised his glass. "This is to our good times, mates."
    Lily, Sirius, Remus, and Harry grabbed drinks and shouted, "To the good times!" They all drank, and lapsed into a thoughtful silence. Harry ran his fingers through his hair a few times, nervously.    Something was nagging him about his father’s speech… They knew Voldemort was after them when they went into hiding. Does that mean he already knows?
    Lily gasped suddenly, alarming Harry, who nearly spilled his butterbeer.
    "Good heavens, Harry! What happened to your forehead?!" Without realising it, Harry had pushed his hair off his forehead, where he usually combed it to hide his scar. Lily leaned across the table and touched the raised lightning-bolt, sending a shiver through Harry’s body. Her eyes grew very wide, and she yanked her hand away. "That’s a curse scar," she said in a low voice, sinking back into her chair. Remus peered intently at Harry’s head, his brow furrowed.
    "So it is," whispered James, sounding rather impressed.
    "Nicer than yours, Prongs," Sirius snorted
    "Excuse me?" James gave him a cautious look.
    Ignoring him, Sirius turned to face Harry. "Way back in our second year, James got into a bit of a tiff with an, ahem, ‘friend’ of ours, this miserable bastard in Slytherin—"
    "Severus Snape, the slimy little pillock."
    "Ah, you do remember it, then? Anyhow, Mr. Potter here thought he’d had the last word, and was walking away when—"
    "BAM! The greasy-haired git nails him from behind with a Splintering Hex. He’s still got the scars to prove it." finished Remus, finally taking his eyes off Harry.
    "I do not!"
    "Yes, you do," tittered Lily. "Right across your bum. You can’t miss it."
    "Don’t believe us? Pull your trousers down. You looked like you got rammed in the arse by a stag. Hence, ‘Prongs.’" Sirius pretended to paw the ground, his hands up like antlers. James looked murderously at Sirius, while the others screamed with laughter.
    "Don’t get the wrong idea, Harry, that wasn’t the end of the story," James said, when the last giggles subsided. "As soon as I was out of the hospital wing, I managed to slip an extra ingredient into one of his potions. Filibuster fireworks, wasn’t it, Sir?"
    "Let me guess," Harry grinned. "Swelling Solution?"
    "None other—the Slytherins all got hit with it, and the professor ran out of the antidote before she got to Snape. It was brilliant. Best class in seven years."
    "I’ll bet. Double Potions with them is a nightmare!" Harry exclaimed. James nodded his agreement, then added "Still, his face went down by the end of the week; I couldn’t sit for six months. Thought it was the end of my Quidditch career, for sure."
    "You know, Harry, I’m surprised you don’t have headaches," Remus said furtively, examining him closely again. "Must’ve been some curse. I’ve never seen anything like it. Do you mind my asking how you came by that?"
    "Remus, do you have to—"
    "Hush, Lily. Moony knows more about Dark Arts Defense than any of us."
    "Er," Harry swallowed hard, and looked down at his hands. "M-my family was attacked when I was young. I survived, but…" He bit his lip and looked up at his parents. Even though he wasn’t sure if he’d traveled back in time, Harry couldn’t take the chance of saying anything to alter the future.     Besides, how could he sit here and tell James and Lily they would be dead within two years?
    The three men stared gravely at Harry, and James glanced apologetically at Lily, but she’d already jumped up from her seat and rushed to give Harry a hug. "I’m so sorry, Harry, I know how it feels."      Surprised at that, he looked into her face, their identical eyes meeting. She patted his cheek. "I lost my parents when I was in my last year at Hogwarts. We were in a car accident, my whole family. Something hit the car head-on, and I wasn’t paying attention, so I couldn’t stop it." She paused to blink a few tears away. "I had my wand with me, so I was able to get my sister and I out of the back, but it was too late to save my parents." Lily gave Harry a last squeeze and went back to her chair.    "Bloody Mini Coopers…" he heard her mutter.
    "Lily, don’t—"
    "No, I’m alright, James," she insisted, then addressed Harry again, "You learn to make peace with these things. Besides, I was lucky enough to have good friends, and people like James and Albus Dumbledore to get me through it." She gave a wry smile. "I really ought to thank my wonderful husband-to-be for keeping my mind occupied with other things. I got back to school after the holidays, parents gone, a Muggle sister who blamed me for everything, and this genius here decides to cheer me up by proposing!"
    Remus and Sirius snorted into their mugs at the memory. "It was right at the end of a Quidditch match, no less," Lupin began. "Gryffindor had just clobbered Hufflepuff, and James pulls up on his broom, hovering in mid-air. Somehow, he manages to kneel on it, shouting, "Lily Evans! I love you! Please marry me!"
    "Naturally, I said no."
    "What?!" Harry gasped.
    "I thought he was kidding. I was furious with him."
    "So what happened?"
    "I left the field, only to find the Common Room filled with flowers—all lilies! And then he gave me the most beautiful ring…" she reminisced.
    Sirius coughed. "That’s not quite how it happened…" Lily, James, and Harry all whipped their heads around to look at him. "What she actually said to him was something along the lines of ‘Bugger off, you mad bastard,’ and then she just ran for it. Jim fell straight off his broom in shock, and landed face-first in the mud in front of the entire school."
    "Really?! Oh, dear, I never knew that!"
    "Oh, that’s not even the best part, though," James interjected. "Thought I was doing her a favour, surprising her with lilies, but of course I didn’t know a thing about Muggle flowers. So, I consulted a friend of ours—the belated Peter Pettigrew—and he had me conjure up the wrong kind. So Lil walks into the Common Room, and finds it filled with the lilies they use at Muggle funerals. She didn’t even bother to hex me—she chased me all over the tower, smacking me about the head with the flowers!"
    Harry, who’d just taken a swig of butterbeer, nearly choked.
    "Wasn’t until she ran out of flowers that I was able to give her the ring."
    "But that is when I said I’d marry him." Lily held out her hand and Harry stared at the perfect, sparkling diamond, set on either side with small rubies. "Isn’t it amazing? Not even James knows how long it’s been in his family."
    "According to Mum, it once belonged to Godric Gryffindor himself, though I dunno if I believe that. But, I do know that it’s enchanted so that it will only fit the finger of the giver’s one true love."
    Harry let out an involuntary sigh, which Remus answered with a short, dry laugh.
    "That’s what Lily thought until she tried to get it off the first time. Seems somebody had also enhanced the ring with a Shrinking Charm."
    "Only, the ring’s own magic wouldn’t let us break the charm. If it hadn’t been for Dumbledore stepping in, I would have lost my fiancée and a precious heirloom," James scooted his chair closer to Lily’s, and put his arms around her. "Thankfully, she never threatened to break the engagement off again. I think that was one of the worst nights of my life." Lily sniffed, and kissed him hard on the lips.
    Gently, Remus and Sirius shook their heads. "I can’t believe we’re letting this one go," Sirius said finally.
    "I can’t believe we’ve reached the age where we have to," Lupin sighed. "I want you to listen to me, Harry. Enjoy your years at Hogwarts as much as you can, and make the most of the time you get with your friends. Because one day, you’ll wake up and find yourself like us. All grown up, worrying about your kids, your work, or about losing all the things you hold dear." He paused, then commented, "Just look at these three. He’s lost his freedom, she’s lost her mind, and he’s losing his hair."
    "Speak for yourself!" Sirius barked.
    James looked around at them ruefully. "I hate to admit it, but Moony’s got a point—no, not your hair, although it is looking a tad thin. As I said earlier, these are dark times, and they’re fixing to get worse. Who knows where we’ll all be a few years from now?" He lowered his voice, "You know, it’s not a secret that we all back Dumbledore. How much longer until we’re marked by Voldemort?"     He paused, impulsively squeezing Lily for reassurance before he turned back to his friends. "I-I’m sorry, mates," he continued, his voice strangled, "I know this isn’t happy talk, but you’re like brothers to me, and I’m starting to get frightened. All of a sudden, I have so much more at stake…"
    Sirius and Remus each clasped one of James’ arms. "Don’t worry, James, we’re not about to let anything happen to either of you," Sirius rumbled.
    "Or your family," Remus agreed.
    "I don’t know if—sometimes I wonder if this is the time to start a family." James’ voice was barely above a whisper. Harry, who’d tactfully withdrawn from this conversation, jerked his head up. He wasn’t the only startled by this news, though.
    "Jim, are you mad?!" Sirius howled. "We know how much you’ve always wanted a son!"
    Lupin leaned across the table. "He’s right. You can’t put off your life, waiting for things to get better!" He took a breath, then noticed Lily’s wooden expression. "Lil, you alright?"
    "I’m fine… I was just thinking." She blinked and looked down into her lap. "I’ve had this discussion with James several times, but now, I wonder if he isn’t right. There’ve been enough families torn apart as it is. I’m afraid—what if something happened to us? I don’t want to leave my children orphaned."
    "We’d take them," Sirius said firmly. "Don’t you worry about that. Me, or Moony, or even Peter—"
    "—better not be Wormtail, he’s not always too reliable—" mumbled Remus.
    "—or you, Moony, you might eat them," James joked, but there was only a weak smile on his face. Harry noticed him pat Remus’ arm affectionately, and they nodded to each other before James turned to Sirius.
    "Just promise me one thing," he said, looking very concerned. "Promise me, you’ll teach my boy to fly. If I have a son, I want him to be the best Chaser anyone’s ever seen!"
    "Seeker’s not bad, either," Harry interjected. James stared at him for a second, then grinned.    "Yeah, I reckon Seeker’d be good. Hear that, Padfoot? Make my boy a Quidditch player I can be proud of." Sirius saluted him.
    "Don’t worry, Lil," he insisted, "no child of yours will end up in an orphanage!"
    "Or with your sister," cracked James. Lily made a show of pretended twitching, and they all laughed together, Harry rather uneasily.
    James gave Lily another hug, kissed the top of her head, and whispered in her ear. She smiled and hugged him back. Remus and Sirius grinned at each other, then at Harry, who gave them both a feeble smile and went back to gazing longingly at his parents.
    Remus must have noticed this, because he cleared his throat and hastily asked Lily, "Is Albus meeting you here?"
    "Yes, he is. Should be here rather soon—right, dear?" James fumbled in his pocket for a watch, which he swung before Lily. Her head followed it back and forth for a moment before she gave up and grabbed it to hold it still. "He’ll be here momentarily; it’s not like him to be late."
    "What did you want from Dumbledore, anyhow?" asked Sirius.
    "Actually, um…" she blushed.
        "We’re going to ask him if he’ll give away the bride," James answered for her, beaming proudly. "I think it’s a fantastic idea, don’t you?"
    As the rest voiced their assent, Harry could only nod, feeling a sinking sensation in the region of his stomach. Not only were his few precious hours nearly up—the sun was already beginning to set outside—but what if he ran into Dumbledore? Since he technically hadn’t been born yet, he certainly couldn’t be a Hogwarts student. A conversation with Dumbledore would blow his whole cover! He decided to make a run for it, and quickly, but when Harry raised his head to ask James for the time, he found himself staring straight at Albus Dumbledore’s unmistakable silver beard.
    At the sight of him, Lily squealed "Albus!" and ran straight into his arms, giving him an enormous hug. The men each stood to shake his hand, but Harry sat rooted to the spot with panic, his mind racing as he tried to think of a way out of there. James offered the headmaster his chair, and pulled up and another for himself. "You’ll stay for a drink, won’t you?" he asked.
    "Certainly! I’d love a fickleberry soda, but I’m afraid I can’t stay for much longer than that—it seems Hagrid has acquired a flock of Fwoopers for your ceremony, several of which have gone missing in the castle. Poppy is preparing a Sanity Draft as we speak."
    Lily’s mouth dropped open. Sirius barely managed to disguise his laughter as a coughing fit.
Harry was beginning to relax, as Dumbledore hadn’t acknowledged him yet, when James spoke, forcing Harry back to his senses.
    "Oh, Albus, I’m sorry—certainly you know—"
    "Harry," Dumbledore turned slightly towards him, his eyes twinkling. "A pleasure to see you out and about, but I do think it’s time you headed back to the castle." Harry’s eyes bulged in shock, but he could have sworn that Dumbledore winked at him.
    Harry said his good-byes to Remus and Sirius, thanking them for the drinks, then walked around the table to shake his father’s hand. Lily excused herself from the table, and guided him outdoors, where she knelt down beside him.
    "Harry," she whispered hoarsely, "I hate to do this, but I need to ask you—oh, this is going to sound so odd—do you mind if I touch your scar again?"
    He opened his mouth to reply, but only a strange, strangling sound came out, so Lily continued.
    "When I touched your forehead in there, I saw something briefly. I thought I saw James and—" her voice cut off, her eyes wide. Harry dropped to his knees beside his mother, who instinctively put an arm around him.
    "You said you got the scar when your parents were killed, so when I saw that, I thought maybe I was watching your memories, but it definitely was James and I, so I don’t know… I have to see it again to make sure." The words tumbled out of her mouth in a rush before she managed to stop and take a shuddering breath.
    "W-what exactly did you see?"
    Lily tried to collect herself. "Vol-Voldemort. He was standing over James’ body, and was pointing his wand at me."
    "Wait—were you holding anything?"
    "Yes, a… a bundle of blankets I think… like a baby," she blinked back tears at the thought. "I was shielding it with my body when everything went green…" She held him tightly for a moment, then pulled back and looked right into his eyes. "Harry, I know you may not want to talk about this, but I have to—I know curse scars don’t tell the future, so there has to be a reason why it showed me that."
    Harry looked away guiltily, but Lily was persistent. Stroking his hair, she questioned him softly.      "There’s a reason you look so much like James, isn’t there?" Harry nodded glumly, afraid to open his mouth to speak.
    "You get your eyes from me, don’t you?" she continued, brightening. He looked back at his mother, only to find her smiling. "I knew it!" she cried, her grip on him tightening again. This time, Harry hugged her back, and when they finally let go, spots from his tears were left on her shoulder.
    "You can’t—you’re not going to tell anyone, are you? This could change everything, I don’t want to mess with time—"
    "Hush, Harry. Of course I won’t. Not even James. I know the risks as well as you do. But now, I know I’ll have a son—a bright, healthy, brave son—who’ll somehow survive an attack by Voldemort. That means more to me than anything."
    "I lived—er, I mean, I will live—because you sacrifice yourself for me." Harry’s eyes stung with tears.
    Lily stood, and helped Harry to his feet, and clasped him to her once again. "That is old magic, Harry. The bond between mother and child is stronger than any other, and special powers come from it." She tilted his head back to look at him. "I couldn’t expect any less of myself. You are a child born out of love—the deep, strong devotion James and I have for each other extends to you, whether we’ll be there for you or not." With that, tears spilled from Lily’s eyes, and she hugged Harry again. "You haven’t even been born yet, and already you’ve made me so proud!"
    Finally, she let go of him, and backed up a few paces, fiddling with her ring. "I have to get back inside now, and I know you need to head back. Take care of yourself, Harry, I’m counting on you!"
    Harry watched her turn to go. A yell wrenched itself from him, with a sob. "I love you, Mum!"
    "I love you, too!"
    With that, the world around him dissolved into blackness.


    Harry awoke the next afternoon to Ron leaping onto his bed. Groggily, he sat up and scrounged for his glasses, which he found beneath the Invisibility Cloak he was using for a blanket. "What’re you doing here?"
    "Hello to you, too," Ron replied sarcastically. "Mum was furious that we all came home and left you here. So, she gave me the choice of either coming back here, or kidnapping you so you could come to Romania with us."
    "And you chose to come back here?"
    "Figured you’d had enough of dragons last year. The wild ones can be pretty vicious. Besides," added hopefully, "we can enjoy ourselves here without having to worry about Percy telling us what to do!"
    "Or Hermione."
    Ron laughed. "Up for a game of chess?"
    "Definitely! Just let me put the cloak away."
    As Ron bounded down the stairs and out of sight, Harry folded the cloak and went to place it in his trunk. There, inside, nestled near his school robes, was a battered gold ring box, which opened to reveal his mother’s diamond and ruby engagement ring.
    A yellowed scrap of parchment was tucked inside, with the fading inscription, "To my beloved son, Harry. I made sure to set this aside for you. Please, pass it on wisely. All my love, Lily."
    He held the ring in his palm, then tucked it back inside the box. His heart considerably lighter, Harry skipped down the steps to the Common Room three at a time.

The End

//
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