Disclaimer: They're not mine and they never will be :-(
Three cheers for Ms Rowling!
In a state of vague doze, Lily sensed a warm body move behind her and froze in a panic before recalling the previous day's events.
Consciously, she relaxed every muscle in her body, one by one, before turning herself to view James.
He appeared younger somehow. In sleep he was so much like the James Potter of her memory.
She smiled softly and brushed a hand against his cheek, then Glanced at her watch and moved awkwardly from the bed.
She dressed in silence, not wanting to wake her lover now he was finally at peace. He'd been such a mess last night. It would be best for him to sleep the tension away this morning.
She on the other hand needed to know more about the ailment. In many ways the previous night had been a dream come true for Lily - she finally had what she'd craved for years on end, an acknowledgement from James that their love had not died - but while she was living a dream, she understood that James was living a nightmare, and she knew she would be useless to him unless she discovered more about the cause.
She focused on that as she prepared to apparate to St Mungoes. Nothing else. Just James and how he needed her.
She chose a spot close to the reception desk, but tucked in a corner. Some instinct told her that was best as she disappeared from her home.
When she materialised it immediately struck her that from her chosen vantage point she could observe the people waiting for assistance, while they could not see her. She noted with dismay that more than a few were victims of magical attacks; precise gashes, oozing sores, extra appendiges, and one woman who couldn't keep herself from screaming hysterically, the whites of her eyes flashing as her husband attempted in vain to calm her.
The screaming gave the room an air of hopelessness as the other patients made concerted efforts to pretend they couldn't hear her.
Would the war never end?
And that's when it happened. Lily felt reality strike her like a bludger to the head, forcing her to comprehend the reality of what James had been trying to convey the previous night. She became weak. Her body drifted back against the wall and slid to the floor, her arms hugging her knees to her chest.
For a while she stared at the space ahead of her, attempting to comprehend the enormity of James's actions. He had spilled it all, holding nothing back, but somehow, it was not until this moment that she understood.
Joy at the knowledge that James still loved her, had always loved her, despite his deplorable behaviour toward her over the years, had overshadowed her initial horror at discovering he had erased the existence of their son. Harry she had barely known. James was the one she needed.
Now she was confused over how to feel. Should she be grateful that he had saved her life or hate him for preventing their life together. Should she feel guilt over the deaths and continuation of the war?
One thing she knew for certain: she was anguished over his wish to reverse what he'd done. She understood it. She did. The burden of guilt was destroying him. But to lose him now?
When he'd reached the point of explaining what he'd wanted to do she'd been vaguely aware that it would mean the end of them, but for some reason it hadn't seemed real. As if James were merely telling a story, not making plans with consequences.
She hadn't given him permission to undo the changes as he'd asked. She hadn't been able. She'd needed time. She wasn't impulsive the way he was and never had been.
James had nodded silently. She'd known he'd wished to continue arguing the point until she'd agreed with him. But he'd held back, believing after everything he'd put her through he'd had no right to push her then.
"I can wait," he'd said, looking as though he might start shaking uncontrollably once more.
She'd reached for him on instinct, and unable to process everything at once she had focused on the only thing that had seemed to matter: He was still hers. If she wanted to touch him he wouldn't push her away or run. Not now. An emotionally draining stumble into the bedroom had followed.
She stared ahead.
Why had she come here?
She brought herself back to the moment and forced herself to stand and walk to the notably ugly wizard at the reception desk.
"Can I help you miss?"
"Please. I'm looking for Fred Weasley. Can you tell me where to find him?"
Fred was back in bed.
He seemed to be sleeping peacefully.
George was nestled in the uncomfortable looking chair by him.
Lily only glanced the pair briefly before ducking back out into the safety of the hall.
She breathed deeply. Seeing Fred made her think of their first meeting at Hogwarts so many years ago, and that took her mind to something she had managed to avoid thus far – Harry as he would have been.
His appearance had been similar to a younger James. She remembered that.
She also remembered the fleeting thought that he was sweeter than James. Polite. Overwhelmed in a way James had never been at that time. With a feeling of sickness she now realized why. James had introduced them so casually, with not the slightest idea that Harry was meeting his mother for the first time. He had then whisked her away to the room of requirement, away from the child she would never know.
She felt a fleeting attack of anger. James should have given them more time! Should not have told the flippant lie about Harry being his cousin! Should have understood she would never have another chance to . . . . . no. That was useless.
She clenched her fists, unclenched them, let the irrational moment pass, then wandered unobtrusively into the hospital room.
George was awake now. He smiled slightly and raised a brow at her.
"Come to visit the invalid?"
She laughed despite it all. "Invalid? Are we calling young men who capable of sneaking from hospital rooms into the office of Albus Dumbledore himself "invalids" now?"
George chuckled, conceding the point. "Well he had help."
He gazed at her. The brief moment of humour had died, and when she offered nothing more he sighed and shook his head, "I suppose you're going to be as secretive as the rest? You want me to leave?"
The question was a challenge. His tone showed he had no intention of leaving.
Lily merely took the seat beside him.
"I came to visit a sick friend," she said, "and who might this secretive "rest" be I wonder?"
George smirked. "James, Sirius, Dumbledore," he glanced at his twin, "Fred."
Lily was surprised at this. Fred hadn't spoken to George? That was odd. She wondered what it meant.
"Do you know what's going on?" he asked eventually. "What the meetings are about?"
"I've some idea," she replied honestly. "I came here to understand it better. I suppose it can wait though. No point in waking him, he's been through an ordeal," she stood to leave. George was making her uncomfortable. Like an intruder. Her questions could wait.
"Yeah," said George bitterly, keeping the conversation going and preventing an neat exit. "Well I wouldn't know would I."
"George . . . ." she began to admonish him, but he wasn't paying heed.
"Fred!" he yelled suddenly, cutting her off. "Hey Fred wake up you've got a visitor!"
Unexpectedly he reached out and began to shake Fred roughly. Alarmed, Lily gripped his wrist, attempting to prevent any violence.
"Wha..?" Fred mumbled groggily as he woke.
George wrenched his fist from Lily's grasp. "You've got a visitor," he repeated shortly. "Don't worry I'm leaving. You can talk freely."
He stalked from the room.
Fred, now fully awake, glanced at his twin's retreating figure only briefly before casually reaching behind himself to better arrange his pillows for sitting. Once he was comfortable he clasped his hands in his lap and wordlessly gave Lily his full attention.
Something about his face was closed.
She shifted uncomfortably. "Are things alright between you two?"
He nodded cheerfully. "Just a spat. He'll be right." She nodded. "You here to check up on me?" he went on, "I'm feeling better."
"By all accounts you're looking much better too."
"Oh yeah? According to who?"
She felt awkward. He was smiling, but his tone almost dared her to fight with him. What was this? She decided to lay it out for him. No sense in playing games.
"James told me everything."
Fred paused at this, then smiled again. "Everything? You sure about that? You two haven't exactly been close this past decade."
"I'm sure," she sighed, trying to ignore the unexpected jibe as she suddenly realized that this was not quite the Fred she knew. What was it James had said? Mind expansion? This was a new Fred. The old Fred was gone. She was saddened by this and felt the tears starting to rise. She pushed them away. They were no use here.
His smile faded. "What do want from me then Lil?"
She chuckled humourlessly. "I don't know exactly." She took in his face. His eyes. "You are different you know. James said you were but I see it for myself now. Do you feel alright? Can I do anything to help?"
It sounded useless, even to her own ears.
"No," he said, "Not unless you can turn back time," he added brightly. She laughed. "And I can't be that different. Obviously I'm still funny."
She laughed again. "I'm glad," she said sadly.
"Why are you really here?" he asked, more seriously.
She gave him her best condescending look, not wanting this seventeen year old joker to get the better of her. "Not until you tell me how you are Mr. "fainted in the bathroom". I might be here for other information but I still want to know you're alright."
It worked. His defenses came down at this honest sign of concern. He unclasped his hands and let them fall to his sides.
"Yeah. You and everyone else," he said, no longer meeting her eyes. "I'm still trying to absorb it all I guess. It's like the whole world has been turned on its head. But at the same time it hasn't, because it's always been like this, and the other world feels like a dream. It just depends on how I view it from moment to moment. I can't explain it right."
"No you're doing quite well," she encouraged, relieved now that he was talking to her the way he had been able in the past. This would not be the first time one of the twins had used her as a councilor. "So why haven't you spoken to George about it?"
"I don't know," he answered. "I mean he's not really my George is he. But he is because the other George doesn't exist anymore. It's like the other George is dead. Like Dad."
Now his eyes met hers. He was trying to gauge her reaction. He was trying to shock her to see how she would respond. It had worked.
She took a moment. "Wow," she managed at last, sympathy on her features.
"Yeah," he said, and the barrier went up again. "But enough about me. What do you really want to know?" he asked, obviously trying to distract her.
For a second she wondered if she should be stubborn and not play into his game. Her desire to understand James took precedence however and she found herself considering the question. What did she want to know? What was the other past like? Did Fred think it should be changed back? Had James really created a world more miserable than the last?
"Harry," she said at last, "What was he like?"
She asked the question matter of factly. Fred thought about it.
"Sneaky," he said, "Harry was sneaky."
"Sneaky?" she repeated, somewhat scandalized.
"Yeah. Sneaky. Or maybe secretive is better. Brilliant at Quidditch. Youngest to be on a Hogwarts team in a century."
"A chaser?" Lily asked, thinking that James would have loved that.
"No. Seeker. 'Cause he's quick and little. Thinks of others a lot. Gave me and George a lot of Gold to start a joke shop because he thought people would need a laugh with all the awful You Know Who stuff going on. Smart. You know, not bad at school. Good at defense. Course you'd expect him to be after all the ridiculous stuff that's happened to him."
"The ridiculous stuff that's happened to him?" she queried. Fred nodded. "Such as?"
"Oh you know. Having You Know Who after him all the time. Getting attacked by a basilisk and a troll at Hogwarts. Being entered into the Triwizard tournament. Tortured in a graveyard. He was in a bad way last I saw. I mean I'm sure he would have pulled through. He's Harry. You know? But he was in a bad way."
Lily shook her head, becoming visibly distressed now. "No. I don't know Fred. I don't know anything about him. All I remember is James telling me Harry was his cousin from France!"
Fred nodded. "Isn't that just like something James would do. Right. Well Harry was brave. I reckon he would have been alright after it all. He was more like you than James I think."
"He sounds more like James. I've never liked quidditch."
"Something I for one will never understand," he quipped, making her laugh slightly despite it all. Fred didn't laugh though, "He deserved to live."
"And James didn't?" she countered quickly, all laughter forgotten. She stared at him. "You agree with James don't you. You think we should change it all back?"
"I didn't say that."
"You didn't have to."
"I'm not saying I think you should have died, I just…….oh this is horrible. Why did you have to come here?"
"You have two memories now," she said, thinking out loud, "and you like the other one better."
"Course I do," he scoffed. "Dad's still alive there and the world hasn't gone insane the way it has here. No one wants to admit it, especially to us "kids", but we are losing this war. At least we had a chance back home. I mean…….I mean back…"
"You think of the other time as home," she stated.
"Yeah. I do." He appeared ashamed. "Sorry."
She nodded. "Thank-you Fred," she said formally, before standing straight and walking carefully to the door.
"Lil!" he cried. She paused. "Do you think we should change it back?"
"I don't know," she said, and walked away.
Fred leaned back on his pillows. He hadn't expected that. Hadn't thought about Lily much at all. Now he was forced to face it he realized that he had intentionally avoided thinking of her. Changing the past meant letting Lily be murdered. Thinking of her made him feel guilty for wanting to change it back.
Lily had always been close to Fred and George. Like a young aunt perhaps.
She was one of the few regulars at Grimmald place who didn't treat them like trouble making children.
He needed to talk to George.
Parrot - The Rebbecci family names on neighbours are themed. First it was the rebel, "Stoney" (Stonefish), then his troublemaker brother "Toadie" (Toadfish) then their deliquent cousin "Tad" (Tadpole) then their ADHD inflicted cousin "Stingray". I thought it was amusing.
Barzell - Yup, I've seen timeline. I thought it was a bit of a let down. Although I thought the romantic storyline about the earless guy was pretty cool.
Templa - I'll keep this conversation going on livejournal. Just didn't want you to think I'd forgotten you.
X-Woman - Have I not updated since New Year:s sorry all!
Ness - He he.
Sugar Sorceress - Wow! Thankyou. You pretty much nailed the philosophy. Not giving any more hints on how it ends though.
Thanks to all others who reviewed. Just so you all know I fully intend to finish this story. Sorry the updates are so few and far between! Life as usual got in the way.
Along with the breakdown of my laptop.
You can read all about it on my livejournal, located under the "homepage" button at the top of the page.