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"...So I said 'Speaking of Gryffindor…'" crowed Minerva McGonagall, her pointed black hat akimbo and her cheeks quite pink, "and your son, Lily — and, remember, twelve seconds ago this child was mentally packing his bags and starting a new life as a greengrocer—he looks me dead in the eyes, earnest as anything, and says, "Professor, when we took the car, term hadn't started, so you can't take points from Gryffindor!"

The table exploded with laughter. Lily leaned on James for support as he choked on his butterbeer, and Hagrid pounded the table with his fist so hard that Flitwick, who had drunkenly leapt onto the tabletop earlier in the night, bounced right into the air and landed headfirst in the gamekeeper's bucket of ale.

When Lily and James had been waylaid by Minnie and Flitwick, insisting they welcome Lily back with a night at the Three Broomsticks, Lily had expected a round of drinks. Possibly two. She had not expected to be joined by Rubeus Hagrid and Horace Slughorn, bearing ale and mead respectively, and to pour back so many multicolored liquors that the night had taken on a hazy, rosy glow and absolutely everything in the whole world was hilarious. Horace in particular had made it his personal mission to ensure Lily's goblet was never empty (though, as James noted loudly, he was decidedly stingier with buying rounds for the table).

The rest of the patrons—a half-dozen grumpy old warlocks, at nearly midnight on an October Sunday night—had started casting them dirty looks, but they were in no danger of eviction from the pub. Madam Rosmerta had long since chucked her apron and pulled up a stool at their booth.

As the laughter finally died down, Lily turned to James beside her and fingered his collar—an excuse to touch his neck. "You didn't tell me that bit of the story," she accused (his skin was so warm).

James grinned (she'd made him happy). "I didn't know it! Minnie had already kicked me out of the room for looking like I wanted to buy the little shit a brand new broomstick."

The table burst into laughter once again, and James settled an arm around Lily's shoulders.

Lily was confident she'd been sitting demurely next to James at some point in the evening, but either he'd scooped or she'd climbed, and now she was in his lap, her fingers toying with his hair while he rubbed her back, perilously close to her bum.

Only half-listening to the story Rosmerta was telling, Lily turned to look at her husband. The dim orange candlelight of the bar threw artful shadows over his jaw; his slightly dopey drunken grin showed off white, straight teeth that knew how to bite ; his liquor-pinked cheeks accented the mad whirlwind of jet-black hair, the bangs that argued compellingly against the existence of gravity, the sweet little baby curls near his ears, dampened by sweat in the overheated bar…

Grateful though Lily was for the warm welcome from the professors who would be her colleagues this week, it wasn't exactly what she and James had planned for the night. As Lily watched sweat bead on a strand of James's hair caught underneath the band of his glasses, she remembered yet more forcefully how , precisely, the plan had differed.

His fingers dipped a few inches lower, and he traced a faint line horizontally across the curves of her arse. He had noticed her watching him, then. Sober, perhaps she would've been self-conscious, but now she simply glowed under his attention. She cupped his face in her free hand.

"Hi," Lily whispered, and James grinned up at her.


"Guess what?"

"What, sweet thing?"

"I like you."

His grin widened. "I like you too."

"I know ," Lily said proudly.

"What gave me away?"

Lily reached down and found his left hand on her thigh, then daintily pinched his ring finger between her thumb and index and lifted it to wave his wedding ring in his face. "Waddaya think , goofball?" she giggled gleefully.

James grinned at that, but did not answer immediately. He bounced his knee gently beneath her, and Lily acquiesced to the silent request to shift, moving to share her weight more evenly between his legs.

Then she felt him.

Lily looked down, and her breath caught at the sight of the sharp angle in his lap, framed very clearly by the bar's flickering candlelight. Her eyes flicked back up to his, and she tugged her bottom lip between her teeth. James smirked, unabashed, and gave her bum a long, luxurious squeeze. "I thought maybe that," he murmured. Lily, drunk and warm and turned on in the bloody Three Broomsticks , flicked her eyes down to his lips. She could barely think for needing him—drunk enough that the presence of other people in no way reduced her arousal, but just sober enough that she knew she couldn't kiss him in front of teachers.

Clinging to propriety with all her might, she searched for something to say (something else to do with her mouth, that is). She found that their conversation had faded into a happy fog somehow, but they'd been talking about...what he thought? Yeah! Something like that. She could work with that.

"And, er," Lily hazarded coyly, "What do you think now ?"

James blinked, and then smirked, and Lily realized she might have lost the thread of the conversation, after all. Between James's lopsided grin, mischievous eyes, and big, sure hands all fixed on her, though, she doubted she would hate wherever it ended up.

James gathered her into him until suddenly his lips were almost at her ear, and then said, voice a low rumble: " I think're perfect...and wasted ...and horny… "

Lily gasped in melodramatic outrage. She poked his chest, got distracted digging her finger into the firm muscle there. "That's you!" she cried, giggling.

James shrugged, dropped his hand to cover hers and pushed her fingers down over his chest, then his abs, down to...Lily inhaled sharply. He was readier than she'd realized, or else he was hardening by the second. "Yeah," he admitted, "I want you right now. But I also know when my wife needs to be fucked."

Lily's thighs snapped together as her whole body reacted to those words. Two months worth of need for him roared deep in her belly, and she felt as if all the blood in her body was rushing toward the surface of her skin, fighting and keening for his touch. She leaned toward him, fingers stroking very gently, and James sucked in a sharp breath.

"Can we, um…" Lily glanced around at the rest of the table. "Can we go?"

After Slughorn called the Knight Bus (though not before slipping Lily one more shot "for luck"), the rest of the crew tottered drunkenly off to the outskirts of town, where four thestrals tossed their heads at the helm of two sleek black carriages, each equipped to fit four behind its plush velvet curtains.

"How shall we split up?" asked Filius. "Don't want to leave anybody out…"

"Lil and I can—" James began, but Hagrid interrupted.

"I ought ter get me own carriage anyway," he said graciously, "You lot ride up together. I'll take the other."

Oh, no .

Minnie and Filius were going to get into the carriage.

With Lily and James.

That would not do. That would not do at all.

"Porfessor Potter and I," said Lily with dignity, "Have matters of grrreat im-ibpertance to disssscuss in Paris... no!" she focused very wide eyes on her husband (well, she seemed to have two husbands, currently, but that was sexy, so she looked at both of them) and tugged meaningfully on his sleeve. Some unscrupulous person had cast an enchantment on her that was preventing her from saying the words 'in private,' so he would have to do it.

"Lily and I wanna make out now," said James.

"OH MY MERMAN," said Lily, horrified. "You can't say that to a PORRESSOR ."

"Baby," said James, valiantly holding back laughter, although Lily had no idea why, " I'm a professor."

Lily's mouth suddenly felt very dry. She stepped toward him—well, around him. She seemed to have been leaning on his side very slightly already—and pressed herself up against James's hard chest, hands starting at his stomach and pushing up to his chest, fingertips and palms delighting in the dips and ridges they found beneath the starchy dress shirt, then up over his shoulders to squeeze big, veiny, carry-you-out-of-danger-then-fuck-you-without-putting-you-down biceps. " That," she whispered, and all six of James's eyes were very dark as she stared into them, "is so hot."

James wrapped a strong, proprietary arm around her waist, then looked back over her shoulder. "Yeah, we're gonna take this carriage," he said, and without waiting for a response he scooped Lily up in both arms and clambered—clumsily, but Lily was too gone to notice anything unswoonworthy about it—into the carriage. He pulled the door shut, settled back on the plush seat, and gazed at Lily in his lap. "Hi."

"Hi," Lily answered, warm and cozy all over in a way that, she suspected, had very little to do with the alcohol. But no sooner had she looped her arms around his neck and leaned toward him than the carriage began to move, and Lily very nearly slid to the floor.

"You are so drunk," James cried, arms locked tight around her waist to haul her back. His voice was so warm, so filled with tender laughter and awe, that Lily wondered for a minute if she had invented being drunk.

No, she decided, probably not. But they had invented love, probably.

One arm still a steady anchor on her waist, James reached up to tuck her hair behind her ear with the other hand, and she nuzzled her cheek into his warm fingers.

Or maybe just James had invented love, to make Lily happy. It was the sort of thing he'd do.

"I've got Sobering Potion back in my room," James murmured regretfully. "And you definitely need it, but for now...C'mere and kiss me." His fingertips dug into the back of Lily's head, pulling her forward just slightly, just enough to command. Their lips met.

The rest of the ride back, though they did little more than kiss, was just a wave of good, of heat in her belly and cheeks, of tingles in her spine and her neck, of bliss all over.

At one point, with lips on James's neck, she found one of the spots she'd never mastered in fifteen years—one of the few that just popped up occasionally to drive him absolutely spare. He put a hand on the back of her head and held her there, whining and straining his neck and bucking his hips and giving Lily a God complex.

At another point, when James had split into two very talented husbands, Lily mumbled, "Three is a good number." Both of them stopped kissing her to laugh, but Lily continued unperturbed: " This three especially. It's a threesome but it's just lots of you and that's the best threesome and can one of you do that ear thing that makes m—ooo oh, yeah."

By the time they made it back to the castle, her second husband had floated off somewhere, and the original seemed to be having a trickier time getting her out than he had in. Eventually, James clambered out of the carriage and convinced Lily to sit down and scoot out on her bum to land on his back.

"Okay, you can slide down now, love," he instructed, squeezing her thigh, once her full weight was resting on his back.

"NO!" Lily crowed gleefully. "Piggy-back time!"

James shook with silent, exasperated laughter beneath her. "I'm going to kill Horace," he finally said, but he didn't sound particularly upset about it as he set off for his room, hands wrapped firmly around Lily's thighs, her arms twisted round his neck.

Struck by a wave of warm affection (and, okay, maybe a little dizziness) Lily wrapped her arms tighter around James's neck and pressed her lips to his cheek, then her cheek against his. "I missed you," she mumbled in his ear. " God , I missed you." James squeezed her legs a little tighter.

She had missed James...and she had missed Harry , maybe even worse because she couldn't sneak in and see him whenever she needed to...and then she remembered! Now that she had permission to be here, her visits weren't confined to James's room! She could see Harry whenever she wanted! She could see Harry right now!

"BABY!" she yelped in James's ear, and he squawked indignantly. Lily deduced that he had not heard her. "BAY!-BY!" she cried, releasing his neck to grab both sides of his face and smoosh them. "'S NOT YOUR NAME!" Lily kissed the side of James's face frantically as he snorted beneath her. "YOU'RE JAY!" she wailed, anguished. "NOT BAY I'M SO SORRY I LOVE YOU!"

"Oh-kay," James interrupted in his sexy, loud, sexy, in-charge, sexy leader voice. "Piggy-back rides are for quiet wives." And in a complete non sequitur with no warning whatsoever, he dropped his hands from around her thighs. Lily's arms, inexplicably made of wet spaghetti, lost their grip on his neck instantly, and she tumbled to the ground and landed flat on her back.

" Fuck!" James's face whooshed into view in front of her, looking quite concerned (and a little amused). "Lil, baby, are you okay?"

"Whoomp!" said Lily happily.

James ran both hands over his face, then through his hair, shaking with silent laughter. Then he knelt down and cupped her head gingerly in his hands, poking and prodding with his fingers. "Does this hurt?"

"No." James's lips, dark and full and kissable, were very close above her, and she could see the two-day 5 o'clock shadow growing in on his chin, where it always came back the fastest. Kissing him would scratch her a little, now, but if his lips moved down her neck, that scratch would burn so good...Lily didn't realize that she had lifted her hand until her thumb caught his lower lip, dragging it out into a pout. "Nothing hurts," Lily whispered. "Got you ."

James pressed a kiss to her forehead and scooped her up in both arms, one beneath her shoulders, one at her knees. Lily curled into his chest, breathing him in, pine and broom polish and that strangely wonderful maple shampoo…the smell that had almost vanished from Potter Manor.

Lily closed her eyes and breathed, thinking hazily about that colossal marble mansion...when the three of them lived there together, it had felt enormous. With both her boys gone, Potter Manor was too large, too elegant, too empty to call home. She hadn't wanted to worry James, so she hadn't been fully honest with him about how awful it had been to lose both of them at little was left that mattered to her when her family was gone…

The liquor was catching up to her, now, in the ache pressing in at her ears and down on her eyelids. The difference between pain in the brain and pain in the mind is a slim one; slimmer still when alcohol has blurred it all. Lily's thoughts had been pleasantly hazy for a while, but now she'd lost any sense of control over the haze, and she was thinking about Alice.

She knew every time she went to Mungo's that it would only make everything worse, but she couldn't just skip her weekly visits, not when it was the Potters' fault Alice was...And besides, without her boys, Lily almost craved those visits…Though she loved Sirius and Remus and Mary, she felt, in a dark, tangled way, more at home with a mad woman than she had felt with her friends for eleven years…Husband, son, godson; James, Harry, Neville…They were all she needed; they made a full and joyful life, but without them…

James began to climb the stairs, and Lily swung a bit in his arms. The movement, though slight, made her stomach roil and her head spin, and the dark spiral of her thoughts disintegrated, as drunken thoughts tend to do in the face of distraction. She could no longer think at all, really, just feel—heavy and tired and sick and lonely, and she groaned in relief when she half-felt, half-saw her husband push open the door to his room.

James laid Lily down on his bed, and she rolled just enough to straighten out, glad to be done moving and with no great interest in ever doing so again. The room was spinning slightly, and her head hurt, and her stomach was a bit...odd...and alcohol was bad bad very very bad but sleep was nice…

The bed sloped down beside her, and alien hands started to untie her robes, then tried to pull them off her shoulders. Lily groaned loudly and unhappily. "Nooo," she mumbled. "No seck…No shagg…I can'…"

James huffed a hot laugh against her ear. "Yeah, I got that when you couldn't untie my belt in the carriage, love. But you hate sleeping in robes." The truth of this managed to penetrate Lily's mind-fog just enough for her to help him wriggle her out of robes, then slip, then bra. When she was in only knickers, James wrapped an arm around her bare shoulders and started pulling her torso up.

Lily groaned even more indignantly.

"I don't have Hangover Potion brewed, baby, just Sobering Elixir," he coaxed, "so you gotta wake up enough to drink this or you'll regret it in the morning."

Lily tried to say that she didn't particularly care how she felt in the morning, she just wanted to feel like a person who was sleeping right now, but all that came out was an unhappy gurgle.

"I know," James murmured, pulling her up to sit in the crook of his arm. "I'm a cad…Don't you think it's kinda mature, though?" He continued hopefully, as he brushed stray strands of hair from her face and then pressed the lip of a vial of silvery potion to her mouth. Lily's lips parted reluctantly and he tipped the liquid—the taste wasn't strong, though Lily probably would have thought the same of paint thinner right about now—down her throat. "It's like…I'm an adult…I plan ahead…I don't need to be prepared for the morning after…"

Lily grunted unhappily and James sighed, "Tough crowd." He kissed the top of her head and set the empty vial aside, then gently maneuvered them both down until he was spooning her. "Goodnight, baby," he murmured. "I know you're not best pleased with me right now, but…" he buried his face in her hair and breathed in deep. "God, you make me so happy."

Lily tensed under his arm, though. As she sobered up more and more by the second, anxiety began to flutter in at the edges of her mind that the alcohol had blurred. She was still beyond exhausted, but sleep was nowhere in sight. What if James had wanted to have sex tonight? Scratch that, of course he wanted to have sex. They hadn't seen each other in two weeks; she'd know what he wanted even without the physical proof pressed against her from behind. Lily felt tired, bloated, and undesirable, and she just wanted to sleep, but... "James, I was just—I can be awake, just—pinch me or something…"

"Go to sleep, love," James murmured.

"But—" Lily couldn't sleep now. This visit was supposed to be perfect , but she'd gotten wasted and he'd had to take care of her and now they were celibate on their very first night together, and she was going to end up like her sister, scheduling sex once per month… "I don't want to be a partner that doesn't…"

"Merlin's sake , Lily," James muttered, frustrated, "I just want to wake up next to you."

Lily's breath caught in her throat. She wanted to echo the sentiment back, or better yet, find new words to flood him with the same warmth he had her. Selfishly, though, she stayed quiet—just threaded her fingers through his and pulled his hand from her belly up over her breast to feel her heart pound. She fell asleep with those words still hanging in the air.


"Shut up," Lily moaned, eyes firmly clamped shut against the horrors of the outside world, and her wand alarm obediently ceased to buzz.

A snort sounded near the top of her head, and Lily abruptly recalled where she was and who was with her—a realization that flooded her first with instinctive bliss and then, as her activities last night came blurrily back to mind, with deep embarrassment.

"Good morning, sunshine," James murmured.

Lily squinted at him through only one eye, face crinkled up in shame. "Please tell me last night was a dream."

James laughed and shook his head gleefully. "No can do, Winston Churchill. Do you remember trying to go shot for shot with Hagrid?"

Lily choked on air. "Oh, my God , you let me..."

" No, I did not let you..."

"Ah. Well. That makes sense, actually, since…"

"You're still alive?"

Lily giggled, hands covering her flaming face in shame. "Merlin, I can't believe you put up with me. I was awful… "

James tugged Lily's hands away to pin them above her head, then kissed her softly on the lips. "Yeah," he agreed with a faux-mournful sigh, "But you're one of those really hot girls who gets away with everything."

Lily laughed delightedly as James worked his way down her neck to her breast with long, sucking kisses.

"So pretty," James mumbled into her chest, and Lily preened under the praise. "Fuck, I love these." He pressed his forehead to the left side of her chest as he lavished her nipple. Lily wondered if he could feel her heart pounding. The secret, rushed hookups of the last few months had their thrilling, sexy charms, but Lily had half-forgotten what it was like to feel worshipped.

"Dork feels left out," Lily murmured after several glorious moments of kisses, licks and sucks had been lavished only on her left breast. James paused in his ministrations and looked up at her, frowning.

He tweaked her right nipple with forefinger and thumb. "That's Elven."

Lily rolled her eyes. "Left to right, babe. Elven…Dork."

James tutted, laughing into her skin. He pressed a kiss to Dork-"Left"-then Elven-"to right." Between kisses: "Fifteen years—we've been having—this argument—"

"Yes, because you don't get to name my boobs according to your left and… oh, that feels nice."

James smiled against her breast, swirled his tongue twice more in the same motion, then took her nipple between his teeth and ("Oh, Jay!" ) tugged.

At length he pulled back, each hand cupping a breast, thumbs playing with her nipples as he watched, transfixed. "But they like me better than you."

Lily giggled, "You are so full of sh-ahhh…" James had lowered his mouth again, sucking wetly at her nipple, his tongue flicking rapidly over its pink peak.

"See? I'm very nice to them," James continued as if nothing had happened as Lily fought for breath beneath him. "Plus, you put them in jail all day; I'm very invested in their freedom."

"I give them nice soft homes which you are constantly ripping..."

"Look," James interrupted, "they missed me." Lily looked down at herself to see that the curve of her back had pressed her chest up toward him, sharp pink peaks pointed straight at James as if each desired his touch as desperately as Lily herself. His hands had slid down to grip the curve of her waist, holding her back up in that arch.

Her eyes traced up the dark, taut lines of muscle in his forearms, to heavy swells of biceps, shoulders, chest, to his face, mouth slightly open, unbespectacled eyes dark and reverent. Even now, she sometimes found that James's eyes without his spectacles felt almost too intense, too warm, too intimate. Unshielded by panes of glass, her husband's love burned so hot that Lily feared she couldn't possibly deserve it.

Her eyes stung; her throat felt tight. James was perfect, and hers, and he'd been so sweet to her last night…

"I missed you," Lily whispered, and kissed him deeply. She pushed James aside, and he fell back laughing, pulling her over him. Adrenaline surged through her even as she laughed with him, and Lily felt frantic to touch and kiss and have him. She pressed her lips to his jaw, neck, chest, sucked on his nipple, licked his abs, swirled her tongue around and in his belly button. Her husband's laughter dissolved in gruff, heavy breaths, and then she traced her nose down the dark path of his happy trail until she found his boxers. James gulped; Lily's fingers curled beneath the waistband. She looked up.

"I missed you,"Lily repeated, louder and firmer. "I missed your smile and your laugh and your body and your heart...I missed how good you are to me, and how fun you make every day...and I need you to get—these—off so I can show you—"she broke into helpless giggles as James nearly bucked his crotch into her face in his urgency to lift his hips and help her shove off his pants.

He popped out fully erect, and Lily's laughter stuttered in her throat. James reached down as if to pull her up, but Lily bent her head. Overcome by an emotion that felt a lot like reverence, she pressed a slow kiss to the tip of him.

"Oh, shit," James gulped, and Lily's belly tingled at the thrill in his voice.

"Yeah?" she breathed. She wrapped one hand tight around the base of him and took just his tip into her mouth, wrapping her lips around the ridge and sucking hard as her tongue swirled.

"Oh, shitshitshit," James confirmed frantically, and when she glanced up at him she saw his jaw taut, his eyes squinted shut. She started to bob down on him, hand stroking in tandem, but kept her eyes focused as best she could on the unbelievably hot sight above her. A second later, therefore, when he managed to pry his eyes open, she saw his hesitation a moment before he voiced it.

"Baby, you don't have to— fuck …" he gathered her hair in his hands and cradled her head against his groin. "If you still—feel guilty—about— fuck, baby— last night—that's not..."

Lily pulled away from him, propping herself up with hands on his thighs. She giggled when he moaned low in his throat, hands pushing her back down and hips pressing upward toward her, as if his body was determined to prove exactly how little he meant his protests. She looked up at him through her lashes, not bothering to hide her smirk.

"Am I not doing it right?" Lily asked in mock-consternation. She flicked her tongue out over his glistening tip and tasted salty precum. "I feel like I'm doing it right."

James shuddered. "You're doing it…" Lily wrapped her lips back around his tip and sucked, and he broke off to groan… " very right."

"Then shh ."

He didn't, but the noises he made after that were much more agreeable.

It had been a while since Lily had done this particular favor for her husband, and not just because they'd had so little time together for two months. Blow jobs weren't exactly easy on her jaw; she'd never quite banished her gag reflex; and it had always seemed sort of backward that the more into it they both got, the more physically unpleasant the whole operation became for Lily. Also, too salty.

She had wanted to do it this morning for his pleasure, not her own, but as she sank down over him she found that she was more into it than she had been in years. There was something about the physicality of a blow job—the way he overfilled her mouth...the way her throat threatened to close up every time she bobbed down on him...the slurping noises her lips made against him that had always seemed vaguely embarrassing before…

James with his cock in her mouth was undeniably here, unequivocally hers. After two months without regular sex for the first time in fifteen years, any reminder of her husband was a turn-on, and sucking him off almost overwhelmed her . Even the growing ache in Lily's jaw felt unbearably sexy, and in minutes, Lily was pushing her free hand down beneath her belly to touch herself as she sucked him off.

A minute later, she was bobbing faster and deeper, her breath staccato and James panting above her. Lily's fingers found a spot that made her whimper around him, and James gulped, hands tightening in her hair.

"Are you—?" he tried to ask, and Lily looked up through her lashes, the corners of her mouth twitching up around him. "Fuck," James growled, his hips bucking up into her mouth. Lily gagged, and James gulped, "shit—fuck—sorr—" but Lily knew exactly how much he liked it when she choked around him, and she steeled herself to keep going, sucking and bobbing and twisting her wrist and swiping her tongue. She pulled her hand away from herself to fondle his balls with wet fingers and—"Baby, I'm gonna—"

Lily ignored him.

No, Lily listened, thrilled, and redoubled her efforts. "Shit, are you really gonna swall— fuck…" James's head rolled back against the headboard with a dull thud, and he came in her mouth in a salty rush.

Now, at long last, Lily's gag reflex caught up with her as she tried to keep sucking him through it while also swallowing. Bloody hell , she was out of practice at this, and she had to pull back on her knees, coughing, James's release spilling out of her mouth and down her chin and chest.

James's eyes were still closed, head still tilted back in bliss, when she heard his low growl: "Get the fuck up here."

Lily could still feel her pulse between her legs, and her whole body quivered at that. She took a deep breath. Then she straightened, swung her hair over one shoulder, and twisted to hop off the side of the bed. "Sorry, love! I need these two hours to get ready for class."

Lily forced herself not to look over her shoulder at James, pressing her lips together to hold back a giggle. But that proved a tactical error when, before she'd even taken a full step, the bed moved behind her, and James's hand slipped underneath her arm to grip the back of her neck. He had lunged up to grab her and now, in one fluid motion, James yanked his wife backward across his lap, grabbed her face with his other hand, and kissed her deeply. As she bent over backward, Lily's legs flew into the air, and her arms, helpless against his passion, wrapped eagerly around his neck.

" James—" Lily gasped against his mouth, but James's hand on her neck just pulled her harder into another drugging kiss. His other hand slid down her face; her body; between her legs; with no more preamble, he sunk two fingers where she positively dripped for him. He curled his fingers inside her, peeled aside her folds with his thumb to rub her swollen clit. He caught her bottom lip between his teeth and tugged, swiped his tongue across it, and made her whimper.

He released her lip, tilted his head, and growled into her mouth: "You feel plenty ready to me."

"Well, yeah," Lily gasped, too turned on to be anything but honest, "that was incredibly fucking hot."

James chuckled darkly as he kissed her again, but any finesse his mouth lost to the laugh, his hand more than made up for. Lily's legs curled up over her without conscious thought, knees bent and thighs spread wide for his hand.

His lips moved down, stubble scratching as he kissed her chin, then her neck, and then his laughter dissolved into a low groan so sexy that Lily gasped, back arching into him on instinct.

"Dripping in my cum, talking about 'Gotta get ready for class,'" James growled then, and Lily's eyes flew open, staring at the arched stone ceiling. Gotta get ready for class. Her pounding heart suddenly felt like a symptom of anxiety rather than arousal.

"No—shit—I—James, I really do need to…" His mouth latched back onto hers, plying her disloyal lips open and toying with her fickle tongue. She pulled him closer helplessly (stupid arms) and ground into his hand (weak-willed pussy). With his left hand buried in her hair, his wrist was at her ear, and she could hear each tick of his watch chastising her, but, God, his touch was like nothing in the world.

Lily's eyelids fluttered and her tongue stuttered. She knew she had to go…she knew what she had to say to get him to stop…but then he'd stop, and that would be a tragedy.

Lily steeled herself. She had been a soldier, dammit. She could handle one morning without a James Potter-induced orgasm.

Then he cupped her face in his hand and stroked her tingling cheek, and she almost lost all her resolve. But she pulled her mouth from his and blurted: "I'm going to see Severus to hear about the individual students' needs."

Sure enough, James's fingers slid out of her. "You're what?"

Lily buried her face in his chest miserably. "Baby, I didn't just come here to make love and hang out with you and Harry. I can't let these kids down…I need to be prepared to teach them properly."

James stared down at her blankly. "Is this a joke ? What's the punchline?"

"Not a joke." Though it might be a little funny. "I've never taught anyone anything, let alone seven years' worth of students. I need to do this right."

"You need…" James ran a hand over his face and hair (his right hand, covered in her) and reemerged with a little bit of his swagger back. "Evans, we both know you planned seven classes' worth of lessons the instant Albus mentioned this as a possibility on Friday night."

"I didn't!"

James raised an eyebrow.

"Really, I didn't!... I got dinner with Mary on Friday. I made lesson plans on Saturday ."

James rolled his eyes. "Okay, so—"

"Love." Ignoring every bone in her body screaming for her to curl back into him, Lily sat up and scooted off his lap to sit on the very edge of the bed, twisting to cup his face in her hands. She met his eyes, and though she knew damn well she wouldn't convince him, tried to make clear that she couldn't be coaxed out of the visit either. "It's one morning. I won't be able to forgive myself if I do a bad job teaching these kids." She kissed him once more and stood up.

This time James didn't move to stop her, though he did mutter some (fairly valid) points about the lax standards of competency to which Hogwarts held its professors. Lily ignored him and knelt over her suitcase, prompting a groan from her husband. "No, don't get dressed," James cried, as if Lily was proposing to add a new and outrageous step to her morning routine.

"I'm not," Lily giggled. She turned back to face him, Levitating several soaps, mousses, and lotions with a flick of her wand. "Not yet, anyway. I need to shower first. I can't go see Severus smelling like…" Lily heard herself and trailed off, but it was too late: James's smirk could be seen from space.

"Oh, gosh, did I forget to mention?" he drawled, throwing off the covers and jumping up, "The shower's totally broken." Lily snorted and made for the bathroom, but James was faster, and he slid into the doorway to block her path. "No water comes out at all. So weird."

" So weird," Lily agreed, giggling. She feinted left, then right, but James stayed firmly planted in the doorway, one hand on each side of the frame. Damn his Quidditch training. (Well, not really.) (Her husband naked in the doorway...wasn't bad to look at.) (Rather Greek god-like, actually.) "So weird that it's almost like you made it—UUUUP!" she had made a break for it beneath his arm, but James's big arms ensnared her instantly and swung her up into the air, back to his front, tickling her bare belly.

Lily squealed in outraged glee, twisting in his grip, but she had little success until James let her down. She spun to face her husband, wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing her whole body against his. "I have to shower," she murmured.

James grimaced. "For Snape?"

"For—adult life, babe." But also yes, for Snape, and they both knew it. James sighed, and his face dropped a little. He didn't look disgusted or annoyed or mocking anymore, just disappointed, and suddenly Lily could think of nothing but a visceral need to bring back his smile. "Shower with me?" His eyebrows shot up, and Lily quickly clarified: " Just showering. No funny business. I just—" she cupped his face in her hands—"want you with me every minute."

It took a moment, but then his lips twitched up, his shoulders down. He kissed her nose, and she knew he'd relented. "No funny business."


"I solemnly swear I will not lay a hand on you."

"Well—" Lily glanced down at his hands, currently on her waist and feeling quite nice there, thank you very much— "I mean if we're going for efficiency of might be...helpful…"

James laughed. "I solemnly swear," he revised, squeezing her waist and turning her to face the shower behind her, lips against her ear, "that I will not lay a hand on your dripping, naked, empty cunt."

"Um," said Lily. "...G-g-good."

How the hell had they not showered together in two months?

He was so warm, so solid, so cuddly. Her tits were going to sparkle after that "meticulous cleansing, Evans," and even her hair got a more thorough shampoo than she'd have given it (Lily had mentioned once, at eighteen, that she liked head massages). In return, she scrubbed every inch of his back and stepped slightly out from under the spray to take a straight razor to his stubble.

"This would be so much easier with a wand," Lily murmured, as she had done a dozen times before during this same ritual.

From the twinkle in his eye when he answered ("Yeah, but this way you touch my face") Lily thought James might get the same joy she did from the familiar argument. The tired banter felt wonderful in its tedium, a reminder of the domestic routines that made up a happy marriage.

"But you'd look better with a magical shave…"

"Got to give the other blokes a chance," James retorted pompously, and Lily laughed.

"What, with your wife?"

James grinned. "Nah, she signed a contract. With Witch Weekly's 'Most Charming Sm'—"

"Oh, my God , you won that one time…"

" Two times…"

"Right after one another, which is basically one time, ten years ago…"

"Which is two more than you've won it…"

"Because you were the war hero who'd just defeated Voldemort…"

"So were you, Mrs. Potter. Intriguing how only I got Witch Weekly's …"

" Mr . Potter, the male equivalent of Witch Weekly is Wicked Wicked Witches, and the body part for which they give out awards is not the smile."

James let out a peel of laughter that made Lily drop the razor, but then reached out and squeezed her boobs, then swung them back and forth. "I have more awards than you," he chanted in rhythm with his dance. Lily could barely breathe for giggling. "I have more awards than you! I have more—"

With a long-suffering sigh, Lily pulled out her nuclear bomb: "You're right," she sighed, and James abruptly stopped playing with her tits and raised a suspicious eyebrow at her. That was not a pair of words casually tossed around in this marriage. Eyes wide and innocent, Lily continued: "Witch Weekly awards are the ultimate judge of sex appeal. Now if only you had four like Sirius… "

James twisted her nipples hard. As Lily shrieked, he reached up and grabbed a detachable showerhead she hadn't noticed before, pulling it from the wall socket. Lily barely had time to register what was happening ("ItakeitbackItakeitback!") and then the spray was aimed directly at her clit.

As James knew very well, this focused high pressure spray could get her to the edge faster than hand or mouth or even vibrating charm. She was instantly hypersensitive, drowning in pleasure, feeling almost too much. She squirmed, but then his other hand was on her hip, pressing her back flat against the wall of the shower, and Lily couldn't hide a desperate little whimper.

But there had been rules, she recalled…smart rules he was breaking, after a Marauder's oath. James took those seriously, and frankly, Lily did too: "You promised ," she accused, her fingers finding his wrist.

"Not to lay a hand on you," James grinned triumphantly, and Lily, pathetic and weak and infatuated, reached for him with both hands and yanked his mouth to hers.

It didn't make any sense, because he wasn't even doing anything Lily couldn't do on her own…except, well, perhaps in a technical sense…the sensation of the spray was so sharp and direct that when she tried all by herself, she often gave up and dropped it, legs shaking, before she could come…

And…maybe it wasn't just about his sturdy grip on the showerhead, because when Lily was alone, she didn't growl in that soft, dangerous way he had…

And…her thighs began to tremble, and James began to speak in her ear, and… even her wildest fantasies could never capture quite how much all his orders sounded like prayers.

"Yes," he whispered as Lily's hips bucked off the wall toward him. " Chase it. Come on, there it is…are you getting clo—?"

" Mm-hmm!" Lily's assent was a desperate, high-pitched whine, almost a sob, her nails raking down his chest. James moved abruptly, reaching around her waist and spinning her. The spray swung across her thigh then belly, and Lily cried out angrily at the loss, right at the crucial moment, but then her back was pressed against his warmth. His free hand wrapped around and pressed into her lower belly, tightening something deep in her core. His tongue dipped inside her ear, and the spray returned, and Lily broke open.

Pleasure spilled from her center like a tipped goblet of butterbeer, rivulets of warm comfort pouring down her shaky legs, relief washing through her in wave after wave.

When she finally came down, Lily squirmed slightly, oversensitive to the spray now, and James let the nozzle drop carelessly to the ground. Lily straightened slowly, still breathing heavily. She leaned back into his chest as their hips rocked together. She could feel James hard again, and she tilted her hips slightly, giving him access to where they both wanted him. The showerhead was all fine, great, spectacular, but her husband hadn't been inside her since that quickie more than twelve hours ago. Lily felt empty, and she knew, from the tense stutter in his rolling hips, that he was more than ready to fill her.

Then James patted her arse.

"Out you get, love," he drawled, smirk clear in his voice from behind. "Off to Sniv's."

Lily's jaw dropped. " What ?"

"You said it yourself. You need to go." But he hadn't stopped rocking his hips into her from behind.


"Don't worry about me, Lil, I can handle myself. I'll think about you last night," he said casually. His hands moved to the backs of Lily's thighs, and she gasped as they slid up, squeezing her butt slowly. Even as his mouth told her to leave, his hands knew they had all the time in the world. "Who knew my wife had a professor kink?" he murmured as his hands continued their slow massage. Lily's eyelids fluttered, and her hands caught her against the wall as she bent forward almost involuntarily. She pressed her weight into the wall, her bum back into his palming, squeezing, luxuriating hands.

"Don't be a git," she managed, well aware of the game he was playing, but, frankly, unprepared to compete. "You know you don't want me to go."

"Oh, I do," he said seriously. "I'm very invested in our students' education. It's what makes me such a good professor." With that word, he rolled his hips harder, and he grazed her right where she wanted him most.

Lily shivered; James chuckled low in his throat.

Well .

This was war. And though she already knew the victor—both of them, as soon as they succumbed—Lily still wanted him to be the one to give. She looked over her shoulder at James. She knew he saw her looking, because she saw his eyes crinkle, his lips turn up at the corners, but for a long moment he ignored her, eyes down, watching the curve of her waist, the swell of her bum, the glistening path of his cock as he rubbed himself over her slit.

When his eyes finally flicked up to hers, the combination of his smirk and his blatant lust nearly bowled her over. "Aren't you worried," she teased, but her tone came out more breathy whisper than confident taunt, "about turning me on and sending me off to another man?"

James looked at her for a long moment, and then he just shook his head, his lips pursed together with the sore disappointment of a teacher whose favorite student had let him down. Of course he wasn't worried; he knew exactly how little he would ever need to worry about another man, and it had been ridiculous (and disrespectful) of her to even suggest it. Her effort had fallen miserably short, and Lily's insides roiled with a strange combination of shame and arousal…

" Poor attempt, Miss Evans," Professor Potter sighed.

Okay, maybe just arousal.

Suddenly, with her heartbeat pulsing between her thighs, winning this competition didn't remotely matter. She just needed to win back Professor Potter's approval, and, God , she needed him inside her. She grabbed his arm behind her as forcefully as she could, and her voice came out in a whine when she cried: "I don't need to go, I just need you. Please fuck me, Professor!"

Both James's hands clamped hard on Lily's hips, and he leaned over her as he did just that. " Outstanding ."

When they were done, Lily pushed off the wall to stand up on still-shaky legs, James obligingly straightening behind her and slipping out as he did so. She tugged his hands from her hips to wrap all the way around her belly, and James squeezed tight, big arms steady and warm around her. With closed eyes and happy sighs, Lily slowly came back into herself. She registered the gentle rain still falling on her chest as her pulse slowed, breath steadied…her obligations slithered back into her mind, but she pushed them to the corners for just a moment longer.

For another blissful beat, Lily let warmth surround her on every side. James's warm, firm chest pressed against her back; hot water showered her chest and cascaded down her legs, and with her face tilted up toward the window, the morning sunlight set her cheeks ablaze, painting the insides of her eyelids red.

The sun was so bright, in fact, that surely…surely it was too late to go see Severus now? Surely they'd spent too much time shagging, and the morning had been wiled away enough that there was really no point to leaving her gorgeous, wonderful man just to barely make it through Pomfrey's contagion-protection procedures before she had to leave for class anyway?

Lily bit her lip, and reached for James's wrist where his watch remained, magically impervious to water.


Fuck .

Only thirty minutes had passed in that shower. They'd been altogether too bloody needy, too addicted to the feeling of each other's bodies after too long apart. That fucking alarm spell knew Lily's marriage too damn well, and had left her plenty of time to go see Snape.


With a tiny whimper that she tried and failed to swallow, Lily dropped her husband's wrist and twisted to turn her face into his chest.

"I…I have to go," she said in a very small voice.

" Again with this?" James groaned, and a whine burst out of her unbidden:

"I don't want to see him."

"So don't go," James said, and there was a rare frustrated, almost angry note in his voice that made Lily look up. "Stay here with your husband who loves you, who's barely seen you in two months, Lil. Sniv-Snape's a terrible teacher. You have nothing to learn from him. And even if you did, that's not...We've had—what, an hour? Alone together? Don't I—Doesn't this matter more than—?"

Lily pushed up onto her tiptoes and gripped the back of his neck fiercely, pulling her husband's mouth to meet her own and interrupting his rant with frantic lips. She pressed her naked body against his everywhere that they could meet and squeezed her eyes shut tight against the tingling heat that warned of oncoming tears.

James was so easy to be married to, so easy to love. Her wonderful, generous, optimistic husband who gave and gave and gave and never ceased to expect the world to give right back. Her sweet, naive man whose specs were no less rose-colored for four years of war.

"Jay," Lily whispered, her hands sliding out of his hair to cup his jaw as she dropped back onto her heels, mouth falling farther from his. "You know why I have to do this."

When she opened her eyes, he was blinking at her in evident confusion, and she realized with a jolt that he hadn't been playing along or even wilfully ignoring reality; he genuinely didn't get it.

"Darling," she said, sad and gentle and just a little bit frustrated, "Albus always fills teaching vacancies internally. You didn't really think he'd let me come for free?"

Every year since Voldemort had disappeared, Lily Potter spent one day with Severus Snape.

She usually wore a sundress; Severus expensive but ill-fitting Muggle clothes. They laughed and talked and wandered down memory lane—sometimes literally, if he asked her to meet him in Cokeworth. They treated the six years spent fighting over Lily's right to exist as a slightly awkward memory, like if one had kissed the other's schoolgirl crush. In fact, Severus worked less hard to divert attention from his Dark Mark than Lily did her wedding ring.

The meetings happened at Albus Dumbledore's behest, of course. Albus told Lily that she was the only one who knew Severus well enough to judge his fealty to the Order; Lily told Severus she missed their friendship. Everyone involved understood that the meetings were a bribe to keep Snape from returning to Voldemort's fold.

As if the emotional prostitution wasn't enough, Severus always found a way to bring up that night…to mention that Voldemort had left Lily alive. He always stopped just short of asking for her gratitude, but she suspected in those moments that the Dark Lord had his.

She suspected in those moments that she might have better served Albus's purpose dead than alive.

James hated the meetings, if possible, even more than Lily did. She had stopped telling him before she went the day he broke three knuckles against the wall. There was just no reason he ought to spend the whole day dreading the moment she would collapse into his arms, sobbing. No reason he ought to spend a moment longer than necessary wallowing in his own uselessness against his wife's pain.

Refusal was not an option, after all. Not with the parade of Voldemort's old allies who had been attacking Potter Manor nearly as long as they'd lived there. When your son is the enemy's number one target, and your general says jump, you ask, 'How high?'

When the emptiness of your house is choking you, and you're offered a chance to spend a week with your husband and son… "I promised to visit him, fawn over him, fluff his pillows…" Lily waved a bitter hand: "dote."

"But—you had to see him this summer," James very nearly whined, sounding much younger than his thirty-two years. "He said once a year. That's—that's not fair."

Lily repressed a smile, as she often did when her husband's inner spoiled little rich boy made an appearance. "Life isn't fair, baby," she said wryly. "And Hogwarts wasn't a playground for everybody, and Santa Claus…"

"Yeah, alright ," James grumbled, and he reached out to pull her into his chest. Lily landed with a soft exhale, and she felt his face burrow into the top of her head, his lips press briefly but firmly. "Unicorns, though," he murmured, as he always did.

"Unicorns," Lily agreed, as she always did. Life wasn't fair, but unicorns were real, and so was James Potter, and maybe it was alright.

When she finally pulled herself from James's arms (wet and naked and immediately so cold) she bustled back into his bedroom and dressed quickly. Lily watched James in the mirror as he crossed the room leisurely behind her, still fully naked and toweling his hair. Lily took a moment to appreciate the jolt of his Adam's apple, the weight of his thighs, the curve of his spine. The force of his beauty, unperformed and unselfconscious in this quiet moment, just a fact of his life. And, now that they were reunited, of hers.

"Will you—wait," she instructed abruptly, and James raised his eyebrows but paused obediently as she knelt to rummage through her suitcase again. Lily emerged with her camera, and James's mouth curved up into a smirk as she focused it on him. His hands came down from his hair and he began to pivot, posing for her, but Lily stopped him. "No, just—I want you like you were. Don't look at me, and I don't need it—" she wrinkled her nose— " porny . I just—when I go home, I want you…domestically."

She felt oddly shy trying to express this longing, but she was suddenly picturing the master bedroom at home covered in portraits of James drying his hair…cooking a meal…grading an essay. Just… living . Not even paying attention to her, just being James all around her. The thought made the big, cold mansion seem a little less lonely.

She wasn't sure James understood fully, but he did as she asked, pivoting away from her with a half-smile, hand lifting to towel his hair again. "Like this?"

Lily mumbled her assent, raised the camera to her eye, and clicked. "Thank you," she said, setting the camera down with a shy smile. "Can I…if I want more…"

"Ask me any time, love." James smiled back. "As long as I can have you, too."

Lily, who had been wondering if it would be too presumptuous to offer, bobbed her head eagerly, blushing.

"Fair warning, though…"

Lily raised her eyebrows.

"I'm going to need it porny."

Lily and James laughed and teased their way through the rest of her morning routine (he was going straight back to bed once she left) until—all too soon—she was ready to go.

James sighed heavily and sat down on the edge of the bed, still naked (distractingly so, as she suspected he knew). Knees spread wide, cock hanging unapologetically between them as he leaned back on his palms, he tensed and then released his jaw on a deep, pointed breath.

"I'm not saying anything more about Snivellus," he began. Lily rolled her eyes—as if the nickname didn't say plenty all on its own, honestly. He ignored her. "But I love you, and I missed you, and we've fucked, yeah, but that's all it's been. I need more. I can't go 24 hours with you in this castle without making love to you, Lily."

Lily's stomach twisted gloriously over itself at those words, blush climbing up her body into her cheeks. For the umpteenth time in the twelve hours she'd spent back in this castle, he'd made her feel as warm and fluttery as a schoolgirl hearing 'I love you' for the first time, rather than his wife of thirteen years and mother of his child. She fixed her eyes on his.

"Come back as soon as class is up, and I'll be here," Lily promised him. "I'll be naked in your bed waiting for you. We'll make love, slow and gorgeous. Then when we're done with dinner, and we have the whole night to ourselves...We'll fuck for hours, James," her head fell back, eyelids fluttering as she recalled... "Like we're teenagers again...when we were just figuring out how to have sex, and we thought we'd invented it... the whole world could've gone to pieces around us, and I wouldn't have cared, as long as you and your cock…" Lily blushed, the lewd word pulling her fifteen years forward to reenter the present on a crushing wave of embarrassment.

When she looked at James, though, he was leaning forward, elbows on knees, eyes dark. His expression showed no hint of laughter or teasing, only desire. "Me and my cock what ?"

His blatant need gave Lily the confidence to tease: "Be a good boy and get right back here after class, and maybe you'll find out." She flipped her hair primly over her shoulder and breezed toward the door. She had pulled it open and almost stepped through when she heard James's answer, low and gravelly:

"Whatever you say, Professor ."

Lily whipped around, staring at him with wide eyes, another stab of arousal hitting her hard in the gut.

The gorgeous naked bastard just winked.

Lily needed to collect her things first, she told herself, as she made her way toward the Potions dungeon before the Hospital Wing. She wasn't procrastinating on her duty to see Snape, she was...preparing. She would get everything ready for class in advance, and then she would know exactly how much time she could spend with Severus.

So, really, she would spend more time with him this way.


As Lily ran through this line of thought, her feet carried her to the Potions classroom, steps certain though she had not traveled this path in fifteen years. She passed the requisite six torches, came to a stop in front of the grand stone dungeon door, took a deep breath, and pushed.

Horace's Potions classroom had always reminded Lily of her beloved grandfather's den. Odd, often stale snack foods were always scattered haphazardly through the room. All the chairs were plusher than they ought to be, crowding out into the aisles so that making your way to the front without spilling anyone's potion became an elaborate ballet. The walls were covered in images of Horace with young people who—though they were probably famous in the Wizarding World—Lily recognized no more than the National League footballers Bill Evans had inexplicably idolized.

Unsurprisingly, Severus Snape's tastes did not run in the same directions. Where Slughorn had always kept the room magically warm—often warmer than was comfortable by the end of a lesson—Lily wondered as she stepped inside whether Severus had cast the reverse charm. The desks and chairs looked hard, uncomfortable and grimy , as if a Cleaning spell hadn't been cast in years. He'd taken down Slughorn's photographs, of course, but instead of replacing them with his own decor, had chosen to expand the ingredient shelving to cover all four walls in jars of pickled creatures, so that one had the impression of being caught in a bubble inside an aquarium of the dead.

Perhaps the last was a function of advances in Potion-making, Lily reasoned. The 1992 edition of Magical Drafts and Potions likely required twice the ingredients it had twenty years before. And yet…as Lily looked around the room, she felt a sharp and painful stab of second-hand embarrassment.

Potions mattered. They were a fascinating, powerful, essential craft, and Severus Snape—despite his other failings—was a gifted craftsman. And yet there was only one logical interpretation of this classroom: Severus was so deeply insecure about his life's work that he felt the need to overperform its seriousness to impress eleven-year-olds.

Fuck . The playdates from Hell were so much worse when she pitied him.

Lily sighed, set down her bag, and rolled up her sleeves. She wouldn't feel right changing his whole classroom, but a few Warming and Cleaning Charms would go a long way. Plus—and Lily smiled involuntarily at this thought, knowing it came from spending time with James and his unbounded childlike delight—her wand was long and swooshy, which made charms fun.


Lily's head flew up. A small, knobby-kneed boy with messy black hair stood in the doorway, tugging uncertainly at his robes. Lily's heart fluttered in a way it had had no occasion to do for two infinite months. She wanted nothing more than to tuck her son into her chest and skive off all her classes for the rest of the day.

She played it cool.

"Hey, Sparks!" Harry grimaced theatrically at the nickname, born from the lightning bolt on his forehead. Lily and James put a great deal of effort into reducing the mythic power of that ghastly night (fear of a name, and all that). In return, their adolescent son put a great deal of effort into pretending to hate the nickname.

Ah , parenting.

Harry closed the door behind him and took a few steps into the classroom. "Can I ask you something?"

Lily blinked, surprised and a little worried. He sounded perfectly casual, but something—she couldn't put her finger on what, but call it mother's intuition—toldi her that was a studied effect. All she said, however, was, "Of course." All thoughts of visiting Snape evaporated. She flicked her wand at one of the student desks to transfigure it into a (slightly lopsided) sofa.

Harry eyed it skeptically, then grinned at his mum. "Good thing Professor McGonagall didn't get Spattergroit."

Lily raised an eyebrow. " You can sit first, smartarse."

Harry snorted and made to do so, but Lily crossed to plop down first, just in case. It held, of course, but, well. They only had one kid.

Once Harry sat down, however, he fidgeted wordlessly with a loose string on his robes, apparently in no hurry to start the conversation.

"You had a question?" Lily prompted softly, forcing herself to keep her own hands in her lap.

"Er," said Harry, rubbing his neck and avoiding eye contact. "If I—it's just—can you not tell Dad?"

Lily hesitated only a moment. "Yes," she lied. She would do her best to keep that promise, but Lily and James had decided long ago that, with the sort of threats their son faced, keeping Harry safe came before keeping his trust.

Harry searched her eyes, and, apparently convinced by what he found there (she was terrifyingly good at lying to the most important person in her world), nodded. "Right. Okay. So…d'you, er…d'you remember when Ron and I crashed the flying car?"

Lily was not very happy with that particular choice her son had made (hilarious drunken stories notwithstanding), but looking at Harry's twisting hands she made the executive decision not to bring up her disapproval again. "Rings a bell," she said instead, in a flat, cautious voice. Harry winced anyway, because well-loved children need very little hint to know when they have disappointed those who love them.

"Well, McGonagall gave me detention with Dad," Harry continued, a little quieter. "And I reckoned she was being nice, because he'd thought it was funny, or...he seemed like he did, but then—I showed up for the detention, and he was…" Harry coughed, rubbing anxiously at his nose... "He was…" his voice broke, and he coughed again, a snottier cough, less well-disguised. Lily wrapped her arms around her son and pulled him into her.

"He was angry," she finished softly.

Was he ever.

Even now, at thirty-two, a brother's instincts still sometimes came easier to James than a father's. That first night, James had heard only part of the story (the platform was broken; Harry and Ron took the car; the Whomping Willow got whomped back), and he had thought it was funny (and brilliant, and delightful, and exactly the sort of thing he and Sirius would've done, without even the impetus of the broken barrier).

The day of the detention, when Minnie had realized James's fatherly instincts still hadn't kicked in, she summoned him to her classroom. She pointed out the window at the Whomping Willow and said, "Your son didn't hit that tree because he's a bad driver or because he wanted to park in the shade. The car ran out of petrol over the Quidditch pitch, and Weasley aimed for the only thing in sight that could break their free fall. Five meters to the left, and they'd both be dead."

Then James was angry. Angrier than Lily had seen him since someone tried to throw Harry off his broom first year, and the Potters had to explain to Albus why a hundred children's 12th birthdays were more important than Nicolas Flamel's 612th. Angrier than he had been at anyone he loved since that horrible night eleven years ago. Angrier than he had ever been at Harry.

He'd emerged from their bedroom fireplace with ash in his mouth, already screaming.

" He could have died," James kept repeating, even as she wrapped her arms around his middle, pushed aside his robes to press her fingers to his bare skin, her lips to his collarbone. "Death Eaters at our house every other month and he wants to die by flying fucking car?!" His skin burned, and his pulse raced in veins that stood out from his neck. Though Lily had calmed him down a little, James left for the detention with hands still shaking, and she'd known well that Harry was in for it.

Lily usually felt proud to be the sort of mother whose son aspired to live up to her principles; who knew what his parents expected of him and who respected and trusted them enough to be ashamed when he fell short. Her own parents had loved confusingly, erratically, in fits and starts that had left Lily and her sister in limbo, competing for love that was never quite enough to go around. Without either of them really understanding the rules of the game, Lily had gotten lucky—she tended to win pride and affection, while Petunia mostly lost. Thus Lily established enough self-esteem to stop playing, but Petunia never did. Now, Petunia smothered her son undiscriminatingly with the praise she'd always wanted, while Lily and James tried hard to inspire Harry to earn theirs.

But in this moment, as her son's eyes dropped to the ground and his shoulders hunched, Lily wanted to take him in her arms and promise, 'There's never been a day; there has never been an hour; there has never been a tick of your father's watch when we weren't proud of you, Harry.' She wanted to make him understand that everyone who seemed angry that night was just terrified out of their wits.

But children cannot hear 'you scared me' like they can 'you broke the rules,' so Lily held her tongue.

"He was upset, darling," Lily said instead, "But I promise you, your dad's forgiven you. I'm sorry he scared you, but he loves you so… "

"I know!" Harry said a little too quickly, and Lily repressed a smile.

"Well, Harry James, you came to your Mum a month later just to talk about it, so maybe—"

"That's not why!" Harry cried defensively. "I'm—it's fine about Dad, I don't—" Lily's eyebrows lifted and she started to gently push back, but Harry cut her off: "While I was in detention, I heard, this voice."

Lily blinked. "Er...James's?"

" No," said Harry adamantly. "It was...I dunno, it didn't even sound like it was in the room exactly, but it was loud and horrible , and—Mum, it was saying awful things about—about—"


"About ripping and tearing and it wanted to kill people!" Harry's voice had gone loud and shrill, and his hands were gripping his mother's robes. Lily realized, with a start, that she too was clinging tightly to his, her heart pounding in her chest. She tried to collect her thoughts, slow her frantic breathing, stop the flow of nightmare scenarios that came readily to mind after four years of war and then twelve years of raising a son with a target on his back.

"What did your dad do?" she asked—as evenly as possible, given that what she wanted to ask was Why the fuck hasn't James Potter told me this?

"Dad didn't...He acted like I was making it up. Like he couldn't hear it at all...H-h-he thought I was trying to get out of detention, but I wasn't , Mum, I swear. I—I don't know what it was, but I told Ron and Hermione, you can ask them, and Hermione was all ' Tell a teacher' —" he briefly ceased his tirade to roll his eyes— "but I t-t-told Dad, and he didn't...or she said 'Go to the library,' 'cause she just thinks you can find anything in a book, but Ron and I have never heard of this. It's not a n-n-normal wizard thing, and MummyIthinkthere'ssomethingreallywrongwithme," Harry finished desperately, tears finally spilling out of his eyes— her eyes—and splashing down his cheeks.

What an absurd idea, to have a child. To eject your heart from your body and let it run around out of your sight, scraping its knees and hurting its feelings and thinking—ever, for even an instant, thinking—that it was anything less than perfect.

"Harry, no!" Lily whispered, her heart breaking. She rocked her son as he buried his face in her robes and bawled. "Oh, sweet pea, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you."

"You have to say that. You're my Mum!" Harry wailed. "But Ron said—"

"Harry," Lily said firmly, cupping Harry's wet cheeks in her hands and pulling his face up to hers: "I have said this to you before, and I imagine I will say it many, many more times: Ronald Weasley is a brave, funny, wonderful young man, but he is a lot dumber than Hermione Granger." Harry looked both indignant and confused—like he suspected he ought to argue that point, but couldn't quite work out how. Instead, he wiped his nose on his sleeve and huffed a tiny, snotty laugh. Lily grinned.

She thought hard about how to say this right, and after a moment she landed on an analogy: "You know that Uncle Moony is a were—"

" No, Moony turns into a werewolf once a month!" Harry interrupted fiercely, and Lily's throat felt a little tighter.

"Right—Moony turns into a werewolf once a month," Lily corrected herself, coughing a little. "But not everyone thinks of it that way, darling. It was my idea to-to talk about it that way, in fact. Because I was muggleborn, and I didn't grow up with prejudices against werewolves, it didn't seem to me that a monster that takes control of his body once a month should get to define him all the time. To me, it seemed as silly as…as calling your dad a stag when he was in human form."

She'd made a different comparison, then, in the abandoned classroom where a shamefaced Remus had first whispered his secret.

"I'm kind of a monster once a month too," Lily had said, "but you don't spend the other four weeks calling me…" sixteen years old and terrified of sex, standing with her arms crossed in front of four of the most popular boys in school, she'd mustered her courage for a word she'd never said out loud before: "'Crime Scene Pussy,' do you?" Peter Pettigrew squeaked in terror, Remus Lupin buried his face in his hands, and poor James Potter very nearly had an aneurysm. But Sirius Black, who had still sort-of hated her then, had looked her dead in the eye and asked, "What do you think 'bloody cunt' means?"

Some jokes are so funny that you can't help but become friends after hearing them.

But Harry didn't need to know about that.

"Okay," Harry said blankly, sixteen years later. "Congrats, I guess, but that doesn't give you a free pass to get it wrong now."

Lily smiled. "We're sassy this morning. My point , Harry James, is that growing up with magic gives people a lot of ideas about what's normal and what isn't. Magic is wild, weird, wonderful nonsense, and your and Ron's twelve years with it doesn't even scratch the surface."


She squeezed his shoulder. "That voice sounds...really scary, Sparks. I'm sorry you had to hear that, and I hope it never happens again. Maybe somebody jinxed you; maybe you were really tired, and you just drifted off and dreamed—" Harry grumbled indignantly, and Lily held up her hands in surrender. "Just an idea. Or…" she hesitated, her hand returning involuntarily to her son's back. "People have tried to hurt you before, love, and I can't promise they won't again. I can't promise that what you heard that night wasn't somebody who wanted to..."

Lily trailed off, pressing her face into Harry's curls and breathing him in. She wasn't quite sure if she had stopped that sentence short for his sake or her own. "The point is," she continued a little shakily, "Maybe the fact that you personally don't know of any other wizards who hear voices is not a sign that it's never ever happened in the history of the wizarding world. Maybe it's a sign you should listen to someone with a little less hubris and go to the library."

"What's a hubris?"

Lily smirked. "And you can start with a dictionary."

"I'm gonna look up 'annoying,'" Harry grumbled. "I'll find a picture of you ."

Lily turned her head and posed theatrically, repressing a smile. "Make sure they get my good side." Harry laughed, and Lily did too. She pressed a kiss to the top of his head.

When Harry was first born, Lily had counted her kisses, terrified of hitting some invisible threshold and losing this person that was too good to really be hers. Terrified that Voldemort would take him, and she would not have cherished every moment. Terrified of kissing him too much or too little, of loving him wrong.

She had lost track in mere hours, of course, but started again after he got that scar; again the first time an ex-Death Eater attacked their home; again last night. She was only at twelve.

She kissed his head again. Thirteen.

"I'll help you look, Harry," Lily promised. "And we're going to figure this out. But if you hear that voice again in the meantime…"

Harry frowned, already sensing where she was headed. He folded his arms stubbornly across his chest. "I can't just—If I'm the only one that can hear it, I'm not going to run away! What if it's really trying to hurt somebody?!" Lily sighed. The child was too damn much his father's son ( and his mother's , James's voice said in her head).

"I know, Harry. Believe me, I'd be telling you to run if I thought there was a chance in hell you'd listen, but…" Lily reached for Harry's right hand and flipped it over. She tapped her wand against his palm, then against her own left palm, murmuring an incantation. "Now clench your fist," Lily instructed, and when he obeyed, she felt a sharp tug at the center of her palm. Lily's arm shot automatically out until her hand covered his, and, satisfied by contact, the magnetic pull disintegrated.

Harry blinked, eyebrows flying up in surprise. "So...if I hear it again…"

Lily nodded. "We'll find a better solution, but for now…just clench your fist, and I'll be there."
She watched his brows furrow as the wheels in his little head spun. She fancied that for all his teenage bravado, she saw a little relief there... Then (without thinking, she suspected), Harry blurted out: "But what if I have to punch somebody?"

"Who are you planning on punching, Harry James?"


"Right answer." Lily tucked a misplaced lock of hair behind her son's ear—a useless endeavor, of course. It sprang right out again.

She knew Harry wanted to argue further, but he said nothing. That silence, more than anything else, brought home to Lily how very scared her little boy must be for Harry Potter to accept his mum's help almost without protest.

Abruptly, the clock tolled nine, and mother and son both jumped. "Oh, my—you have class! And— I have class!" Lily cried, frantically pulling Harry to his feet and dusting his robes. "I'm a terrible mother— and teacher—there are probably students outside—you have to go! Go!" Harry was laughing, finally, earnestly, eyes dry, when Lily pecked him on the forehead and gave him a shove toward the door. She rushed to her desk and started frantically waving her wand… " Accio Third Year Lesson Plan...Locomotor Chalk... These desks are still filthy, shi—oot... Scourgify—"

"You're not." Lily looked wildly over her shoulder at Harry, who was rubbing his forehead over his scar. "Er—a terrible mum, I mean. Thanks for...I'm really glad you're here."

Lily smiled tightly at her son, chest hot, blinking very rapidly. He smiled back and turned to go.

"Harry?" she called when she was able to speak. She had an idea...and it could be quite risky if she was wrong...but she fancied she knew her son well enough, and she didn't want to lie to him if she could help it... "I'm still going to tell your dad," Lily said wryly.

Harry hung his head, but he looked disappointed, not betrayed, and Lily breathed a sigh of relief. "Flattery was worth a shot, though, right?"

Lily laughed. "Uncle Padfoot would be proud."

Harry opened the door and stepped out into the corridor, and as her first class (Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff third-years) began to file into their desks, Lily turned her face away. Motherhood was a seventeen-year crash course in how to ignore your own emotions as they filled your chest and stomped on your heart. Twelve years in, and still...

Ripping and tearing and it wanted to kill people, a voice had told her son. Lily closed her damp eyes, pressed her face into her hands, and saw green light.

It was like this: Pretty family room, golden mood lighting from candles floating in jack-o-lanterns lining the walls. A low coffee table, carved all from one smooth block of dark wood, every edge and corner curved to keep the little boy safe. Two maroon sofas and a gold armchair, the Gryffindor crest long ago carved into the dark wood of the fireplace. A flickering fire in the hearth, shimmering, if you looked closely, with Charms that made it only feel pleasantly warm to keep the little boy safe. Antique tapestries and incomprehensible crayon art sharing real estate on the walls, along with a gilded portrait hanging above the mantel—a relic from the father's parents; an ancestor who had once been headmaster of Hogwarts. Gorgeous Persian rug to cover the hardwood floor, more than an inch thick, hundreds of Galleons spent to keep the little boy safe.

It was like this: Portrait empty. Three bodies sprawled unmoving on the floor. A chasm sliced through the middle of floor and rug, eight feet deep, four feet across, splitting the room in two. Mother on one side, little boy dead on the other.

People would ask Lily later how she crossed the crater. James, Sirius, Albus, Ministry investigators…it was the first of dozens of questions for the only living witness, and she could answer none of them. Her son was on the other side of the chasm, so she crossed it.

Her ears rang something awful as she collapsed beside what was once Harry Potter and Peter Pettigrew, pulling her son's body into hers. He was still warm—the Killing Curse that hit him had not taken that yet—and she thought, absurdly, that if his warmth wasn't gone there was still a chance he could come back…she pressed fingers to his tiny chest, some twisted approximation of CPR…

"HARRY! HARRY! WAKE UP, HARRY!" His open mouth was inches from hers, and she imagined she could still feel his breath, though she could barely even see his face through her tears falling onto him. When she blinked them away, neon green flashes set fire to the dark behind her eyelids. She kept screaming, desperate to make her son hear her over that awful ringing sound. Just hear her and live. He wouldn't leave her, Harry wouldn't do that to her, not if he could just hear his mother—

Large hands gripped her from behind, one wrapping around her waist, the other around the back of her head. "He's crying, Lily!" James all-but-yelled to be heard over her, forcibly turning her head, pushing her face into his chest. "He's awake! He's okay! He's crying! You have to stop screaming to hear him."

She stopped not by choice, but because his shirt strangled the breath she needed to continue.

And then, faint but unmistakable, she heard Harry's plaintive wail.

Lily froze. Very slowly, feeling like it was happening to someone else, someone very far away from the Lily Potter who had just watched her son die, Lily registered other signs: she could feel his feet twisting beneath her hands, smell sick-up that hadn't been there when she had reached him. She pulled her face from James's shirt and opened her eyes, and she could see his eyes shine with tears, his tiny fists twist and punch the air.

Her son was alive.

Her son was alive, even though she had watched Lord Voldemort kill him.

Lily should have felt relief. She understood, rationally, that relief was the appropriate emotion to feel right now. But if it was there, it was hidden deep beneath the swirl of racing heart and sweaty palms and horror like she had never felt before.

"He's okay," James whispered again, and in his voice she heard all the relief she lacked. "We're all…" she saw him see Peter, try and fail to process it, turn back to her with a shudder. "Our family is okay." James grabbed a handful of her hair, fisted it and pulled, yanking her face up to his. He forced his mouth against hers, desperate, frantic, like a thousand desperate kisses after a thousand almost-lost battles, a million unthinkable what-ifs. But Lily didn't recognize his mouth or her own. They were dry, alien bodies rubbing against each other, no comfort to be found.

When she pulled away, he pressed his forehead to hers, panting. The feeling of his hot breath against her face was heavy and cloying. She wished he would give her space.


All three Potters, infant included, whipped their heads toward the door—or rather, toward the gaping hole where a door had once been. Sirius Black was sprinting through it, face white and haunted, half-mad. "JA—" halfway through the word, he saw them, and his legs simply gave out.

Sirius fell to his knees, momentum still carrying him forward in a painful-looking skid. He crossed the few feet that separated him from his brother half-crawling, and then both his arms clamped around James's head, face pressed into his brother's hair. The embrace looked less like a hug than a trap snapping down, folding James up.

" Prongs ," he whispered.

James Potter, who always had a joke or a line to break a moment, simply reached out, half-blind, and banded his arms around his brother's waist so tight that the lines of muscle stood out through his sweater.

Then Sirius was breaking away, pressing a long, lingering kiss to Harry's forehead, then leaning over him to grip Lily's face, press his lips to the top of her head. His embrace, too, was unwanted, too much.

"What happened?" Sirius whispered into her hair. "What—Peter's house was empty, so I came, and the door, and—"

"Voldemort came," Lily interrupted, and her voice sounded wrong to her own ears, hard and brittle and dead. The hardness worked, though; Sirius released her. "Peter Stunned James. And I was running, trying to get to Harry…" she didn't say save Harry or take Harry from Peter, though she had been. Now that he lay dead on the floor, looking more human and less rat than he had in months, it seemed sacrilegious. "And then…" she let one hand leave Harry for an instant to gesture vaguely toward the chasm behind her, then clutched her son again. "He made that chasm to blast me back into the wall."

"Voldemort did?" James clarified.

Peter, Lily had thought, but it wasn't important, and it was all hazy anyway. Peter and Voldemort had been speaking to each other, people had moved, that spell had been cast...she couldn't remember the details of any of that, wasn't sure she'd known them as they were happening. All Lily knew with certainty was that she was moving toward Harry, and then she wasn't anymore. She shrugged.

"Sure…I tried to get up, but at first I couldn't stand…" She glanced over her shoulder, then, and saw why. The spell hadn't just thrown Lily into the wall; half the floor had gone with her. Cinderblocks were piled four or five high, the only gap a small, Lily-shaped hole where—she realized now, though she hadn't even noticed then—she had shoved them away in order to move.

Sirius whistled, low and long. " Shit , Mama bear," he muttered.

James was less impressed. "You could be hurt." He reached to pull Harry from her arms, but Lily clutched her son jealously to her chest. His voice dropped, hand tightened on her wrist: "You are hurt."

Lily looked down and realized that amongst the bloody scratches—par for the course in battle—her whole left arm was twisted unnaturally, bent between shoulder and elbow, where no arm should bend. It should hurt like hell, but she could not feel anything.

"Baby," he was desperate now, "Give me Harry. We need to Heal you."

"Fuck off," Lily snarled, and James jerked back. "I'm sorry," she choked out. None of her emotions were in their proper places in her head, and she wasn't sorry, not at all, but she knew rationally that she would be one day. "I'm fine. I need to hold him." James was looking at her like he didn't recognize her. She couldn't bring herself to care.

Sirius, still kneeling before them, laid a hand on James's arm. "Leave it, Prongs. She's in shock."

"I know," he barked, "That's why—"

"Tell the story, Lily."

That she could do. She pressed her face into her son's soft curls, closed her eyes, remembered.

Peter had seen her move and asked Voldemort if he should kill her, then. Finish the job. She knew that not because she'd registered it at the time, not because she could remember hearing it, but because of Voldemort's answer: "Don't bother. Severus wants to shag her." The word 'shag' in that cold, clear voice was so strange and disorienting that Lily registered it, processed the words around it into meaningful language, in a way she had not done since James had crashed to the floor unconscious.

Even shocked and traumatized as she was, though, Lily had enough mission experience to know how to recap a fight under time pressure, and none of that was relevant. "Peter was still holding Harry…Voldemort told him to hand him over, but…he didn't. He didn't want to…with me there, watching."

Peter had wanted Lily dead first. She had no memory of a quote to confirm that, no memory, even, of a look or gesture. But she'd known it then, and so she knew it now.

"Voldemort cast—" Lily shuddered. Her hands clenched. Harry flinched. " Avada Kedavra, and—Peter turned so the curse hit him instead of Harry. He—he fell, H-H-Harry on top of him. And—" if she had ever stopped crying, that time was long gone. She broke off to cough, tears running down her throat and shortening her breath. She could not find it in herself to be embarrassed when snot and phlegm landed on the carpet.

In a rush, before the words became unspeakable again: "Cast again; hit Harry; bounced; hit Voldemort; gone."

Sirius and James stared at her, rapt. James looked so confused that Lily wondered if she might not be the only one in shock, but Sirius was ready.

"The spell hit them both? The Killing spell hit Harry…who's alive…and then Voldemort, who…"

"Vanished." Lily nodded. "Just—poof." she gestured to the left, to where Voldemort had been standing.

Sirius nodded too. He jumped to his feet to pace as he thought, a habit he shared with James. "Because…maybe Pete—Pettigrew knew something," he said slowly. "Voldemort had some weakness…"

Lily caught on. "That—that could be, yeah. Peter had noticed during some meeting, and he took advantage…cursed him secretly while they were arguing…"

"And Voldemort didn't notice when he did it," Sirius continued, his voice laden with derisive irony, "because who expects to be betrayed by Pettigrew…"


It was James. It was the first time he'd spoken, Lily realized now, since she'd told her tale, and he was looking between them, apparently confused. But what was there to misunderstand?

"What?" Lily echoed.

"What do you mean, Wormtail betrayed Voldemort?" His tone was innocent, his face scrunched in confusion, but the hair on the back of Lily's neck stood up.

She didn't get a chance to say anything, though, before Sirius was clicking his fingers, pointing at James. "Shit," he said, nodding with the air of a man agreeing with James's point. "Maybe he didn't betray him…maybe he was still helping him…making some sort of sacrifice to help him survive the Curse…escape…"

Glancing frantically around as if he now expected Voldemort to bound back through the front door any moment, Sirius failed to notice James standing up as he ranted. Lily's husband was half-turned away from her, only his profile in view, and yet just the set of his shoulders seemed to drop the temperature in the room by ten degrees. Lily wished fervently that Sirius would shut the hell up.

"What are you saying?" James breathed. He took a step toward Sirius, and finally, finally, the other man seemed to understand that something was very wrong. "What the fuck are you saying?" The oath came out silently for Harry's sake, all its venom and rage packed into the contortion of his face around its consonants.

Still, she couldn't believe it.

"You know," Lily said softly from the floor. Of course he knew. He must know.

"What the fuck are you saying?"

"James," Lily whispered incredulously, "Peter was the spy."

The misunderstanding landed between them with the force of an anvil, slamming into the floor, shaking the very foundations of the house, leaving behind a far more jagged, wretched, unsurpassable chasm than the one that tore the rug in two.

"He died for us." James said hoarsely.

Lily looked at Sirius, but he just shook his head. Back at James. "Y-y-yes, but—"

"He died for us," James repeated. "He—he's right fucking there, DEAD!" he yelled the last word, and Lily curled instinctively inward around her son, hand on the back of his head moving to cover his ears.

Now Sirius stepped forward, half-between them. "Yeah, he did. After he betrayed you."

"How dare you?" James asked his best friend, every word a threat. "He's a hero…He's the reason our son's alive…"

"B-b-both things can be true, love," Lily cried, and something broke inside her when he flinched at the pet name. "He loved Harry. Of course he loved Harry, but he—he was scared, and people do—stupid, terrible things when they're scared, no matter—"

James wasn't listening. "He made the greatest possible sacrifice!"

" Did he?" Sirius growled. "Lily's giving him too much credit—didn't you hear yourself, Evans? He wanted you two dead."

"That's not what I—" Lily tried to protest…but wasn't it?

Sirius ignored her. "Once Voldemort didn't kill you, Pettigrew must've known we'd never rest until we'd killed him. Even if his precious Dark Lord ruled the world, he had an expiration date. All he ' sacrificed' was a couple days of evil, fucky little rat life."

James took a step toward Sirius, then another, his hands coming up into fists, and then Sirius's hands were up too, and then James was pulling his arm up over his head and Lily was shaking, breaking on the floor, falling to pieces.

"Please," she whimpered, and James was rage incarnate, but he heard her. He was James and she was Lily, and he would always hear her. He hesitated, fist still raised. " Please, not in front of Harry."

A long frozen moment, and then James's arm dropped. "I need out," he breathed. He turned on his heel and headed for the doorway, but Sirius was quicker, bounding past him and leaping into the empty frame, hands pressed against opposite walls. James's hackles rose again instantly. "Get out of my fucking way, Black."

"I can't," Sirius said flatly. "You can't leave. Either of you. Not until we know what it's like out there."

"What are you—?"

"There were whispers tonight. Voldemort was on a solo mission; he was late coming back. The Death Eaters…they're confused; they're restless; they're angry. No one knows much—no one ever knows much—but that's why I came. I thought…I had a bad feeling."

James had an answer to that, Lily knew. Several answers, mostly profane. But for all his fury, he was a father and a husband first. If there was even a chance that one of Voldemort's followers would come to Godric's Hollow looking for answers or just someone on whom to vent their frustration, James would never leave his son.


Lily never found out. Instead, a series of thumps interrupted their standoff, increasing in volume until the tiny cottage shook, and then Rubeus Hagrid charged through the door, sprinting at full tilt, head bent for the seven-foot doorframe. He recklessly slammed into Sirius from behind and only skidded to a halt as the collision knocked the smaller man to the floor.

Hagrid's head swung wildly around, snow fluttering from his mane in great clouds. "LILY!" he roared, "JAMES! Thank Merlin, Agrippa and Circe—Albus tol' me yeh was dead!"

A long, laden silence. Doubts and questions raced through Lily's mind, and her darting eyes saw the same messy suspicion in Sirius and James's. Months—years, perhaps—of whispered or unspoken concerns about their leader's secrecy, his willingness to treat human lives as means to an end, crystallized in the space between 'there were whispers tonight' and 'Albus tol' me yeh was dead.'

Hagrid, Dumbledore's most loyal ally, who would never think to wonder why the headmaster thought a healthy young couple dead, looked around at them all in innocent confusion, as if awaiting the moment they would rejoice in their own survival.

Lily had not yet found words when James broke the stalemate, his tone colder than anything he had ever trained on Lily. "So the Secret Keeper saved our son and the spellcaster predicted we'd die tonight. Tell me again who's responsible for the broken Fidelius?"



I always write long authors notes and then scrap them lol but I'd love to talk about this! Butttt although I love and cherish every single review 3 I'm also a crappy responder here. So…still plz do review :) but if you have a question/opinion/discourse, my tumblr jilyesplz is prob the better venue. But also one of my new years resolutions was respond to reviews! So I really am trying!