The Gift
By Rey

A not so idyllic marriage leads to a surprisingly idyllic encounter and ends up with many, many things to be solved. Lily Evans never regrets her path, still. She gets a precious, precious gift from all the hassle, after all. But it's not only she who gets a gift, and things quickly escalate into an intergalactic… family?

(Leading off after the first half of the first chapter of the fanfiction One-Night Stand by Ulktante, with differences that will soon be readily apparent.)

Started on: 2nd June 2019 at 10:20 AM

Finished on: 15th October 2019 at 02:43 PM

Chapter 1: Fire and Ice

Potter Castle is huge, mostly empty, and an excellent place to hide when one wishes to avoid company.

However, since Lily wishes to avoid all things "Potter" presently, after she found out about that suspect potion in her tea, the castle is a big no-no.

She never thought she would go visiting the North Sea, so near to the now-Dementor-less Azkaban, in the endeavour. But here she is. The sight and sound of the icy waves rushing, crashing and splashing high against the forbidding cliffs fit her mood perfectly. The dark clouds gathering overhead, bloated with ominous chance of a nasty storm, seem to agree with her current train of thought. And the wailing and lashing whips of icy wind, tugging her to every which way, they both stoke and calm her currently frothing temper in an immensely satisfactory manner.

Sheltered down in a bay-like structure made by the overhanging cliff formation, she gets to relish in the atmosphere without fear of anybody finding her. Seated on a piece of rock jutting out just above the waves, which she has smoothened and cushioned and protected with magic, she can even immerse herself in it, literally. And, as the bonus, the misery that she derives from her seawater-dampened clothes manages to drown her prior misery, which she indeed hoped for when she chose this spot.

Who needs a sense-dampening, mind-altering, money-wasting, future-head-pounding drinking binge, if one can achieve the same thing through a better means?

Especially if one has no friend to spend the drinking time with. A trusty and safe friend; one who has the time to spend, will not blab to anybody else, will not get twitchy for the dubious safety of their home all too soon in this wartime, and can fight well on the drop of a hat.

Ranting to a perfect stranger in a random Muggle bar somewhere could meet part of the desire to rant in safe company, she thinks. However, having to mask the magical nature of the problem would only tell her that she really has nobody in the world she left more than eight years ago.

The world she abandoned her flesh-and-blood family for, her elder sister had often accused, before they became perfectly estranged from each other a month ago.

A month ago, when their parents, their only family and Muggle relations except for Petunia's husband and child, were killed in a mass attack by the Death Eaters. – Just a number of "horrible road pileup accident casualty" and names on the Muggle side. And not even worth any mention in the Wizarding World.

In this case, Tuney is right to hate the Wizarding World so much.

And in this case, Lily regrets not doing her best to reconcile with her elder sister before it was too late.

But still, it means she has nobody. Not even in the Wizarding World, if she would be honest with herself. The "Marauders" are all James' friends. Frank Longbottom and Alice McKinnon – now Longbottom – are even James' childhood friends. And her Muggleborn circles in the Houses, they have gone to ground to avoid notice by the Death Eaters and Death-Eater sympathisers…

…Something that she would do, herself, if she were not married to James Potter, screw the so-called Gryffindor bravery.

And of course, it comes back to James Potter once more.

James Potter, and his ludicrous efforts to woo her, and his torments of Sev that culminated in that word, and his actual courting effort in their final year at Hogwarts, and their marriage barely months afterwards…

And the damned potion he has the house-elves put into her morning tea everyday without her knowledge, let alone consent.

If only Sev and she herself had never taunted Tuney about that rejection letter, which the latter got from Dumbledore for "daring" to want to go to Hogwarts alongside her little sister….

If only Sev had never insulted her so publicly in their fifth year….

If only she herself had never rejected him, publicly at that, that time and countless times more afterwards….

If only James had never set his eyes and persistent, obnoxious attention on her since day 1 of their acquaintance….

If only she had never capitulated to all those silly, over-the-top efforts two years ago, caught in the romance of it….

If only she had tried harder to reconcile with Tuney and spend more time with their parents before it's too late….

If only. If only. If only. If only.

With a huff, the miserable nineteen-year-old throws herself down on the rock and curls up sidewise, soaking more of the sprays and lapping tongues of the chilly, salty waves. (Cushioning charm works wonders for that.)

That is how she manages to glimpse something that was previously out of even the periphery of her vision.

Something alarming, and… well… intriguing. (After all, the Sorting Hat considered her long and hard, but then sendt her to Gryffindor anyway.)

A pale, seemingly motionless hand has just peeked out amidst the grey, silver-lined waves. – An Inferus? A drowned victim? A trick of the light? A drowning person? A crazy swimmer?

Well, if the hand belongs to someone she can still save….

Shucking off most of her clothes, Lily leaps into the increasingly violent waves with nary a thought, her heart pounding with sudden exhiliration. She swims directly towards where she has just seen the hand briefly reappearing, a few metres away and all too close to the more jagged parts of the cliff's base. The icy water tries to steal her breath; but no matter, there is no need for diving anyhow. And she really, really appreciates this development, both as a distraction from her increasingly dark thoughts and as a push back towards trying to live her life again – with her sneaky, betraying git of a husband, unfortunately.

The wrist that her hand closes round is just as icy as the water is. The owner of the wrist does nothing to harm her, however, so it is safe to strike "Inferus" out of her list of possibilities.

A drowned person, on the other hand….

Well, she is wet already, literally, and she has plunged into the deep at that, so she might just as well fulfill the proverb, towing a dead person into her sanctuary or not. Besides, if the face is still recognisable, perhaps she can help close a missing-person case, therefore helping another family out there…

…Like she could not do, for her own family.

`Damn. Am I going to repeat the 'what-if's all over again? To think that I just got some of myself back….`

Her down-sloping train of thought stutters to a surprised halt when her rescuee lurches into a seated position, immediately after she has managed to haul them – their heavy, heavy, heavy body, if terribly skinny – up the rock, with assistance from a discreet spell.

`An Inferus, then, after all?` she thinks, caught between doubt, apprehension and excitement. Still treading water half a metre away, with her teeth chattering and her muscles threatening to cramp up, she fumbles with her wand, half submerged in the churning water as it is.

And then, their eyes meet, green on blue.

A sharp, clear, glowing blue, with sentience livening it all up even more.

The owner of those eyes looks only half aware of their surroundings, however. The distraction seems to be caused by incredulity, judging by the expression they sport, rather than sleepiness, drunkenness, illness or some other cause.

If they were fully aware of their surroundings….

Lily gulps and shivers, but this time not because of the frigid temperature of the water soaking her to the bones.

She may have fished something – someone – far more dangerous than an Inferus out of the water.

Maybe even someone more dangerous and insane than Voldemort, the self-titled lord of the Wizarding World.

And that someone is on her rock, while she is still in the water and getting weaker by the moment.

Well, she will be damned if she cannot defend even the measliest possession of her own on her own. – Much of what she has now is from James, but there are things that are just hers, including her own will and that rock. Those few things signify her as a person on her own, an independent and sentient and intelligent entity, in a world that seeks to class her as a curious animal and/or James Potter's trophy wife. And she totally refuses to be classed as animals, or even chattle. She is not an ornament, either.

So she will protect what's hers, even if it means fighting, or more.

Decision made, Lily Potter nee Evans paddles laboriously closer from the direction of – hopefully – the blindspot of the inadvertent usurper. She gratefully breaks gazes with the very, very unnerving blue eyes, in the process, although she will never confess it to anybody. All the while, her wand is still aimed more or less discreetly at the whoever-it-is now seated frozen atop her sanctuary.

But then, quite suddenly, like a snake striking at its prey, a pair of hands haul her up onto the slab of magically treated rock by her armpits. As if she were just a light sack of potatoes, or a recalcitrant child in a tantrum.

And, before she can bring her wand to bear, the owner of the hands captures her in a snug embrace.

While letting a hoarse, heart-twinging, hair-rising whine from their throat. Like a wounded, long abused animal saved from a horrible fate by kind hands.

Obscene.

Very, very unnerving, as well, and horrifyingly sad.

The wand that she still has clutched in her right hand digs into the stranger's back, but the said stranger does not seem to care about it, or even realise. Whoever-it-is rocks back and forth slightly, letting out smaller but no less heart-rending whines in occasion, and does not seem to be willing to let her go any time soon.

And then the sky opens up in a torrent of icy deluge, just as the waves reach higher and wilder, sweeping over the both of them again and again and again and again. The stranger breaks into keening sobs, just so, as if in response – an ecstatic, pained response; a joy so sharp it hurts. And Lily somehow knows that, as though she herself had been caged in a room for so, so, so, so, so long, unable to enjoy the world outside in all its wild glory.

And the nineteen-year-old herself also forgets how it is to be warm, or to think, or to feel, for a long, long, long while. All that she can sense is ice water. All that she can feel is ice water. And all that she can think is numbness caused by all the ice water drowning her, soaking her entire being, turning her into itself.

The last thing is what actually jolts her back into awareness of the reality, or at least something else than the ice water. `I am a person. I am human. I am Not part of the water. I refuse to be just water. It's ridiculous. I am me. I am an individual. I am warm-blooded. I like warmth. I want to be warm. I am freezing! I can be warm. I have the means to be warm, don't I? I want to be warm! I have magic. But what's the spell? Do I need a spell to be warm? No, I don't! Just like those flowers; I can do that!`

And, just so, warmth spreads out from the centre of her being, charged with faint power. It outlines the shape that she instinctively recognises as her own by the time it finishes spreading.

It also elicits a pained yelp from the ice water all round her, which… binds her tight…?

She frowns – and now she knows she frowns, that she can frown – and tries to free herself, or at least her fingers, to poke at the thing she is bound in.

There is a shape in the icy water. It is not all icy water round her, anyway.

It is… another person?

Yes, definitely another person, because that cad has just nuzzled into the crook of her neck.

And now she remembers.

Before she can hex whoever-it-is silly, though, they cuddle her even closer and babble something into her ear in an unknown tongue, which – strangely but fittingly – makes her think of rushing and gurgling water.

They sound fervent… and adoring.

James got that fervent and adoring only during the peak of a sexual intercourse… or when he is drunk… or when he kissed her in their wedding ceremony….

`Damn. Why am I thinking of that berk again? Stop being silly, evans!`

Now, this stranger, they're strange indeed, but they're not James. And she would like to at least get a tentative friendship out of this strange encounter, however strange the would-be new friend is. It will be just hers, then. Like her Muggleborn circles, and her correspondence with Professor Flidwick for her charms mastery, and the enchanted things she sells without James' knowledge (because last time he said that it would be unbecoming of Lady Potter to work, other than on the internal management of the Potter estate), and her personal Gringotts bank vault, and her estranged sister plus the latter's family….

"I can't understand you, you know. Can you speak English?"

She is really, really proud of herself that she sounds calm and casual, seemingly unaffected by everything – the ice water from above and below, the strange stranger, her prior problem… everything.

She feels even prouder when she manages not to instantly Apparate away in shock and dismay when the stranger obliges her, murmuring, "Fire, fire, fire, you are such a gorgeous fire. Burn me. Melt me down. Take me with you, my fire, my fire," in a feverish chanting sort of voice.

Her face burns, nonetheless, as ironic as it feels.

James tried to create a breed of fiery red, literally fire-wreathed lilies during their third year at Hogwarts. He said it would match her personality well. Professor Sprout gave him detention – vertilising every pot in all greenhouses – for the rest of the year for that. He had managed to burn down everything in Greenhouse Three in his endeavour, after all. But he did manage to create that breed in his seventh year, taking a Herbology NEWT just so that he could continue experimenting. And he has never stopped calling her "Lily-fire" when she is in a temper since that time. And now someone else – a total stranger, who does not seem half-way sane to boot – calls her that.

Worse, she can really sense that the aforementioned frantic plea is not some sort of deranged flattery.

Whoever-it-is is serious – and seriously eager – about being burnt, melted and taken away by a total stranger.

"I'm not a human Fiendfyre," she tries to joke the eerie, unnerving coincidence away. "Not a bonfire, either, or even a candle. – Now, let me go, please?"

A small, pitiful whimpering sob and a tightening of the arms and legs wrapped round her are the only answer.

Lily waits for a long, long moment. But whoever-it-is still does not let her go, nor say anything, nor do anything. She might just very well be trapped, entangled in the limbs of an ice statue.

Well, it will not do. She cannot survive being drenched to the marrow by ice water like this for possibly hours. Her undies – her only attire, presently – have no warming spells on them, so she cannot try to get warm in the middle of this torrential assault. (Such limited anchor would not be able to protect her whole person, anyway, even if she had thought to put warming rune arrays on them.) And trying to steal some body heat from whoever-it-is is ludicrously laughable, too. After all, just now, she mistook them for being just some part of the ice water that has been half drowning the both of them.

So, wheedling it is, since she cannot break the barmy stranger's hold on her, however hard she squirms. Letting her composure break a little and showing them how chilled she is feeling will only help her, too, she supposes.

Thus, body shaking and teeth chattering, she gives whoever-it-is a plea of her own: "Hey, I'm freezing out here. I'd like to get warm and dry, please. Aren't you freezing? You were in the water for a long time before I noticed you. Come on, we can talk away from the rain and the waves."

"No room no room no room," is what she gets; a feverish litany. And the stranger still does not budge even an inch. And then, some time later, "No lock no ward no spy no potion no hurting no taking my children away," and she freezes, just before trying to wheedle some more.

The notion that she got from whoever-it-is was true.

This poor, maddened person has been locked away somewhere for a long, long time.

`Azkaban?` her mind whispers, offering up a dreadful idea. – But no, the Wizarding prison has been empty of the insanity-inducing Dementors for months, now. From what the Aurors in the Order has once told her, just after the mass abandonment of the Dementors, the prisoners are never fed potions, too, there; neither for positive nor negative impacts, and the truth serum is fed to them only in court.

And there are certainly neither spies spying on prisoners in that prison, nor children, nor pregnant women. (Well, she hopes the latter groups are not there, truly!) So…. But….

"Are you…. Were you from Azkaban?"

"No no no, no ash cabin please. Just here. Just here. With you. With me. And my little ones. Add to my little ones. But never take them. Never take them, please. Burn me. Melt me down. But never take them. Never take them from me, Please."

The stranger gets more confusing by each word they babble, and Lily herself becomes more confused by everything.

She wanted some alone time to stew. Now she suddenly has a big puzzle to ponder.

Then again, she wanted to relish in the storm on the rock – her rock. Now she really, really wants to be dry and warm and snuggled up in a soft nest somewhere indoors. With or without this strange stranger, and near this rock or even back to Potter Castle.

Come to think of it, though, she will certainly see James somewhere in the castle, and she is not prepared yet to continue their fight from earlier. Besides, she cannot bring whoever-it-is there, or James will be angry. And if James is angry, this poor, defenceless someone will be the target of endless cruel pranks, courtesy of the Marauders.

Somewhere nearby, then, and maybe not so enclosed, so that her soon-to-be guest will not freak out even more. Somewhere not so removed from the on-going storm, at that, to provide the both of them with more protection. (She is yet to find a witch or wizard who can throw spells through this much water, at any rate.)

But before that, "Where are your little ones? And what's your name? I'm Lily."

Whoever-it-is nuzzles the top of her head now, parting her limp, sodden hair with their sharp, strong nose. At the same time, they fish her non-wand-bearing hand, trapped between their bodies, into their own hand.

And then they press the palm of her hand against their lower belly. Whose skin, bare as everywhere else on them, is stretched tight. And bulging a little.

"You're pregnant?" Lily blurts, before she ever knows if the stranger would deign to giver her their name.

Envy begins to germinate in her heart, now; sudden, unwelcome and irrational, but potant nonetheless. It grows worse as whoever-it-is hums in – for once – a show of contentment, sharply contradicting their earlier mad frenzy.

And, the worst thing is, they then murmur in bliss into her hair, "Twins. From that creature but also from my love. And I would welcome any addition from you, my fire. – They will be beautiful. They will be great. They will be kind. They will be wise. They will be perfect."

Pregnant. With twins. From… two different donors?

Lily forgets her misery for a moment. "How?" she breathes. `How did they do that? Can I do that, too? I have magic! I should be able to do that! I want that! I need a child. I need my own child. Or children, even. James – that berk – might try worse things if I don't get pregnant soon. But I do want a child – or children – for myself, too. Tuney looked so happy with Dudley in her arms….`

And, as if the stranger could read her mind, or maybe they are indeed able to read her mind, they murmur, with a bittersweet chuckle layering their words, "Seiðr, my fire, seiðr. That creature bound most of it, but he didn't take all, oh he didn't, he didn't, he couldn't, not if he wanted me alive to breed, and oh he did, he does, want strong children, heirs, to subdue my realm, so I have some still, enough to be alive, a half life, to breed, and these are mine. I am a Child of Ýmir, at that, and I have the ability, the ability, to do that, and the drive, and the wish, and I wish to share it with you. He cannot take that away from me, no he can't, no no, and I wish to share it with you, I wish, I wish it."

Seiðr. Magic, in Old Norse tongue.

"Are you from Norway? Or Sweden? It's a long way from here. How did you end up in the water?"

She should urge the stranger to release her; perhaps even to go with her to a drier, warmer place. And she would urge them indeed, if only the stranger would cooperate. (They haven't even given her their name until now.)

Well, she could force them to cooperate, maybe, but she daren't. It'd likely be a fatal mistake, to force them to do anything or go anywhere. They're so strong but so unpredictable; a very, very, very unstable experimental potion ready to explode, so to say.

And she would prefer such a person to be more or less harmless to her and her surroundings, just like any of the experimental potions she has brewed all these years with or without sev's input. Hence the small talk.

While she is slowly sinking into hypothermia-induced forever slumber.

While the stranger is lazily playing with her hair and her ears and the straps of her bra as if she were a lifelike mannequin.

While the stranger's hold on her feels strangely comfortable….

`Damn. Whoever-this-is is winning the battle,` she thinks muzzily, even as the stranger's further babbling slips into her ears like a lullaby: "No-Way? No, not No-way. There are ways, always ways, to go there, to return there. The worst place in the universe. Guilded cage filled with all manners. Manners… pain and horror and terror inside. Safe from outside. Unknown from outside. No, no, no going back there. I am free now. Free. Free free free. Free with you. With you, my fire. With my children. Our children. Lovely children. Strong Enough. Beloved Fortress. For me. For you. For their other sire. For themselves. Each other. My love. Their other sire. Cannot see them. Small price. Maybe in… next life. But live on in these. Children. My children. Our children. Strong Enough. Beloved Fortress. You name them? As well? I chose one. Love chose one. You… one. One. I… tell them. Their other sire. I will tell them. They will be… proud. These, the children, fire, like you, not just water, not… no weakness. Strong. Enough. To fight. Fight free. Survive. Live. I have… have children. Other children. There, still there, still there. But they have been taken… taken… by the creature. Love him. Cleeve to him. From my womb! But cleeve to him. Obey him. Ignore me. Often. Cúl… Cúl does. No…. No, not Vili. Vé. They still… still… sometimes… but not so much… still…. – Don't leave me! No no no no no no no! Don't! Stay! Stay stay stay! Don't leave! What can I… can I do? Please! Stay! Fire! Fire!"

Lily mumbles in sleepy protest as her body is shaken from the outside, no longer just from the inside. She grunts in displeasure when the bands round her chest and hip then tighten, before she and the bands shift… somewhere. Worse for her comfort, she is shaken again, albeit weakly, when the feeling of movement-without-moving stops. But at least, the bands are no longer so restricting, and the shaker-from-outside stops after a while.

And then, all of a sudden, her stomach burns and roils with agony, as if liquid fire is making her body its playground. It rips through her comfortable haze. It blazes through her veins like liquid fire – liquid Fiendfyre – indeed. It flays her alive, changes her, sharpens her mind, widen her senses, sharpens them, ties them to–.

`No no no no no no no no! I am free! I am human! I am a person! I want this out!`

And out the intruder goes, shoved away by her own magic, although many, many things have been irrecoverably changed, it feels, before she manages to get a hold on herself.

For one, she no longer feels terribly cold.

For two, she can see, even through the gloom and the downpour.

And for three….

Her breath hitches as something seems to be… different… on her crotch area, felt only when she shifts to sit more comfortably, adjusting to her new centre of balance. `Do I even still have a womb?`

Her heart drops like a loaded stone to the very bottom of her belly. `If I don't have a womb, how can I have my own children?`

And then, `I wish I didn't see that hand in the water. I wish I wasn't curious enough to check. I wish I never met whoever-it-is.` Her chest, empty of the heart that is now beating near her crotch, burns with ever-rising anger and a sense of betrayal. `Backstabbing stranger.`

Her hands, laid on the surface at her either side, clench into fists. She wishes it were the stranger's neck that she is strangling, instead of just empty air and some water.

But then, she becomes aware that the surface on which her fists are resting is not her stone slab down by the waves. It is not the field of coarse grass over coarser ground that lies atop the cliff formation, either.

No. It is – they are – a pair of bare-skinned limbs.

Bare-skinned thighs, from further exploration closer to her body. And they are still wrapped loosely round her, although the arms have long fallen away.

Her cheeks burn. From embarrassment, from anger, or from something else, she doesn't know – doesn't care, right now.

"Achio," she snarls. She needs her wnd to check for sure.

Only, she hasn't put the changes that have been done to her in the equation….

The length of willow twig slaps her hand, as if possessing a – furious – soul and will of its own. The startled witch screams, as her hand smarts horribly, before it settles into a steady, intense throb.

`Damn. Damn damn damn. It's my wand hand, too! Damn you, whoever-you-are!`

But when she opens her mouth, about to castigate the source of her current misery, a tendral of foreign power clumsily meets her own, before sluggishly expanding and enveloping her completely. It runs over every part of her, stopping every so often and paying more attention to the area before moving along. It feels like Madame Pomfrey checking her thoroughly after a bad fall from the school broom in her first year. It also feels like a lover being intimate with her, concerned for her.

It feels alien; so very alien, and alienly natural. The power, that is, not the intimacy, nor the concern, the care. Although, truth be told, it has been a while since James ever paid so much attention to her, past their nightly and daily baby-making sessions…. (Lately, they did not even bother with a cuddle session before and after the intercourse, with James so preoccupied with the Order, and Lily misses those peaceful snuggling so much.)

And then, the power wraps itself delicately round her injured hand and soaks into it, feeling like dipping her hand into the path of a cool-air-blowing fan. Gentle. Comforting. Relieving. – `James was never like this, so full with 'masculinity'.`

It leaves her hand whole, uninjured, a moment after.

She gasps. Her breath hitches.

`Healthy,` the power seems to inform her, then, in an exhausted but warm voice so alike whoever-it-is that has changed her – transformed her, maybe – without her permission whatsoever. `Safe. Not hurt. Fiery, still. Maybe for the best. Lovely fire. My fire. Add to my children, please? Now? Before I am too tired? Need… need to… introduce you… to them. Let them know you are their sire. Let them know you will add to them.`

`What did you do to my womb?` Lily thinks, wonders, fears. She doesn't want to hate whoever-it-is. She doesn't want to fear them, either. This total stranger has been kinder to her than James in the last year or so. She wants it to last despite everything.

And, `Of course not!` it is the very first time the stranger shows any kind, any shred, any hint of anger. `Better to die than be wombless! I would never dream… never taking… never dream taking your womb from you!`

Lily shrinks a little; wary, but also confused. `Did I say something? But how….`

`The tendral of power – no, the cocoon of power, which is still wrapped loosely round her – lets out a… huff. `I can hear you. You can hear me. It is that simple, my fire. Do not fret about it? Come closer? I would love to feel you…. Please? It has been so long… so long….`

Longing not of her own drenches the utterly baffled nineteen-year-old. Desire equally foreign follows soon after; to be touched kindly, to feel loved, to be seen, to willingly give pleasure, to love freely. They caress her, cuddle her, snuggle her, adore her; hopeful but not expectant and without limit.

Lily soaks in it, drowns in it. And, for once since her early childhood under the fretful, watchful eyes of her elder sister, she lets go, and rejoices in the act.

It is like having a knotty muscle eased up after so long bearing the ache. – Painful, relieving, enjoyable.

She revels in it, in abandon.

She is alive, for the first time after so long.

She is afire, and an unknown stranger welcomes her heat, selfish as she is feeling.

She melts them. They chill her.

The both of them become a puddle together.