Sunday, October 26, 1992.
"James," Albus Dumbledore called just as the younger man's hand reached his mottled gold doorknob, seconds from freedom from the headmaster's office and from this meeting.
James turned back, shoulders stiffening again. "Sir?"
"Can I trust you will respect the gravity of this situation?" Dumbledore asked. "Despite any private sentiments anyone might harbor, the outcome could be…"
"Tragic," James finished. "Of course. You can count on me."
Dumbledore nodded, acceptance and dismissal in one regal swoop of the chin. James opened the dark oak-panelled door, stepped through, and closed it behind him. He paused in thought for a long moment.
Then James Potter took a running leap onto the silver banister of Dumbledore's spiral staircase and bellowed, "YESSSSSSSS!" all the way down.
Today was a good day.
James Potter had had precious few good days since he had joined Hogwarts' staff as the newest Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. He had not been offered the job under false pretenses, exactly, but certainly he had not fully understood what it would require of him. When James accepted the gig (to save his son from Gilderoy Lockhart), he knew that on paper, professors could neither leave the castle nor bring anyone to visit except during school holidays. James had never much bothered about Hogwarts's rules before, however, and he had no intention of starting now. As far as he was concerned, the job was the best of both worlds: he'd spend his days with his son (presumably a few other little twerps would sneak in there, too, but that couldn't be helped), then sneak out a secret passageway to spend nights with his wife.
But James hadn't bargained on Snivellus.
From the first week of school, Severus Snape had developed an infuriating habit of showing up at James's quarters at random hours of the night. This meant James could no longer risk sneaking out, so Lily—a much less experienced rule-breaker—had to come to him.
So far, so annoying, but ultimately fine.
But Snape then started demanding entry under ridiculously flimsy pretenses—'I dropped a vial of Monkshood down the corridor, and I think it rolled under your door,' for example—and things got trickier. It was significantly harder to set the mood with his wife when James kept having to unceremoniously shove her into his closet.
While despising Snape for his disgusting refusal to let Lily go, James had reluctantly credited the bloke with a pretty impressive instinct for cockblocking her marital relations. Until, that is, the night James failed to hear Snape knocking over the sound of Lily moaning his name, and Snape burst into the room bellowing about infidelity. It turned out that the fucker had cooked up some fatheaded fantasy in which James was sleeping with a coed, and he, Snape, discovered and revealed James's crimes to Lily. Who, presumably, flung herself at his greasy little prick in the throes of gratitude.
It was enough to turn a weaker man's stomach, and had undeniably put a damper on secret romantic nights with Lil. Especially since Snape threatened, if he caught them again, to fucking tattle.
The upshot was that they only managed to sneak a night together about every two weeks, a length of time they hadn't been apart since the war, and even then only during one or two dramatic, awful missions. At thirty-two, James liked to think he and Lily were a little less codependent than they'd been at twenty-one (Sirius didn't know what he was talking about), but, well...he missed her. He really, really missed her. He'd never before known this castle without Lily in it, and every spell, every tapestry, every secret nook or cranny seemed a little less wonderful without her.
But today...today was a good day.
James soared off the end of the railing and landed several feet away. He whirled to give a peppy salute to Argyle the Gargoyle, winked at several dumbstruck students, and set off at a clip for Gryffindor tower in search of his son. He didn't have any real reason to find the boy—Dumbledore had expressly forbidden him to tell Harry the news before the banquet tonight—but James's mood was infectious, and he wanted to share it with his son.
With the help of Nearly-Headless Nick, he found Harry a few corridors from the Tower. Unable to contain himself, James lunged at Harry from behind and swung the little boy joyfully up into his arms, forcibly mussing his hair.
"Da-ad!" Harry groaned, shoving James away even as he grinned a little. "What the heck?" As if in slow motion, James watched Harry bring a hand to his forehead, touch his scar self-consciously and...lo and behold...run his hand through his hair to fix its ruffle.
With a triumphant shout of laughter, James leapt backward and aimed his finger straight at his son. "VANITY!" he bellowed. "I KNEW IT!"
Harry snorted, cheeks a little red. "I'm not—you almost knocked me over… I just…"
"'Stop ruffling your hair, Dad,' 'You're so conceited, Dad,' 'Stop showing off for Mum, it's weird, Dad,'" James singsonged gleefully. "When all this time…" struck by sudden villainous inspiration, he peered down the corridor toward Gryffindor Tower. "Where's that little camera kid when you need him?" James cackled.
Harry yelped in terror, all amusement fleeing his face.
"OI, CREEVEY!" James yelled down the hallway, relishing the opportunity to embarrass his son.
"Dad, shut up, shut up, shut up!" Harry squeaked frantically. He reached up to cover his dad's mouth, but James grabbed his arms and trapped them behind his back.
"COLIN CREEVEY, HAVE I GOT A PHOTO OPP FOR—"
Harry twisted out of his father's grasp and leapt onto his back in a last-ditch effort to shut him up. James roared with laughter, reaching an arm around to try and yank his son down, but Harry was a lot stronger than the little squirt James used to toss into the air mid-play-wrestle.
"Dad, I'm gonna boycott your class—" Harry got in a solid elbow to the throat, but James managed to use that momentum to swing him down and get him into a headlock, forcibly mussing his hair.
"Did you hear that, Creevey?" he bellowed, "Harry Potter is now skipping school to focus on his modeling career…"
"Bloody hell, Dad!"
James frowned slightly. He had a vague idea that he ought to discipline his son for cursing, but Harry's little preteen voice had cracked mid-oath, and for all his feigned disinterest, the kid was definitely mad that his dad was messing up his hair, and the whole picture was so adorable that—
"POTTER!" barked Minerva McGonagall from behind them, and Harry and James instantly released each other and spun to face the head of Gryffindor House, straightening ties and robes and spines with identical guilty grins.
A moment later, James realized his mistake and relaxed his posture, sticking his hands in his pockets and smirking at his son. "That's you. I'm James now," he told Harry snottily. His son looked up at him blankly, and James realized that it probably hadn't even occurred to Harry that his professor father would've thought he was being disciplined.
Fuck, James was old.
"Pray tell," McGonagall began, eyebrows raised as she glared pointedly between the two of them, "which disreputable baboon taught that foul language to his twelve-year-old child?"
"Sirius Black," said Harry honestly. James snorted, and he thought he caught a glint of amusement in Minnie's eye, but her voice was cold when she answered:
"Lovely. A third Gryffindor of whom to feel ashamed."
"Sorry, Professor," Harry mumbled, and McGonagall raised her eyebrows.
"No need to apologize to me, Potter. But I suggest you find something useful to do before the professor"—she turned the stink-eye on James—"at whom you swore sees fit to discipline you appropriately."
James had raised his son to spot an opportunity, and, with an adorable little embarrassed smirk, Harry was scurrying backward. When he was nearly around the corner, James halfheartedly began, "Yeah, Potter, I'll have to take points from your House for…oh, no. He's gone." He grinned at Minerva. "I forget, what House is that one in?"
Minerva cast him a withering glare as she turned on her heel to head to her office.
"You would do well to remember, James, that within these castle walls the largest change to our relationship is that—"
"Since I'm not a student, the rules against corporal punishment no longer protect me," James chanted, grinning and swinging around to walk backward in front of her. Minerva had taken full advantage of the role shift—James doubted there had been a week since he'd returned to Hogwarts in September that he hadn't had to dodge a smack from his old Head of House, and he wouldn't have it any other way. "Y'know," he mused aloud as they turned the corner toward her office, "by that logic, there's no rule against me fighting back."
Minerva immediately burst out laughing, deep and full-throated and Scottish through-and-through.
James, for whom making Minerva laugh was a pleasure that ranked only slightly below doing the same for Lily, Harry, and Sirius, darted forward and kissed the professor on the cheek. He earned a smaller, softer smile for his trouble, and his heart soared. With James's parents and Lily's long gone, Minerva was the closest thing either of them had left to a mother. James didn't know if she knew what she meant to him, but sometimes he suspected she might feel the same way back.
They reached Minerva's office door, and as she unlocked it, she tossed over her shoulder, "I take it, from the barbaric howling with which you disrupted my work, that you heard Albus's decision?"
James's grin widened until his cheeks ached, and he ducked his head to ruffle his hair. When he looked back up at her, Minerva's eyes were so bright that if he hadn't known better, he might have thought she was holding back tears. "I am very, very glad," she said.
The banquet that night was a solemn affair, befitting the solemn occasion. When the students had eaten their fill, Dumbledore stepped up to the podium with bowed head and furrowed brow. He paused for silence, which came slower than usual. The students had no idea why they had been summoned for this banquet, so the Hall was naturally rife with speculation.
"I am sorry to have to tell you," Professor Dumbledore informed them, nary a twinkle in his blue eyes, "That a professor has fallen very ill." A brief pause; a few gasps.
"Professor Snape is in bed with Spattergroit," Dumbledore continued gravely. He did not wait for the whispers that would inevitably fill the hall, knowing all too well how gleeful three-quarters of them would become. "Madam Pomfrey is full of hope that he may still recover, but expects the recovery to take at least a week. In the interim, his Head of House duties will be covered by Professor Vector, sometime Slytherin himself. His teaching responsibilities will be filled by a distinguished potioneer who very luckily happened to be able to take leave from her cauldrons to assist us this week. We are very lucky to have her here, and I hope that you will all take advantage of the opportunity to learn from someone with practical experience in the field. She will be joining two members of her family at the school...without further delay, may I introduce to you...Professor Lily Evans Potter!" The headmaster gestured dramatically over his shoulder, his face finally splitting into his wide, twinkling smile.
The Great Hall broke out into applause, the sound interrupted by one little boy's loud, joyful yelp. The clapping petered out quickly, however, when no celebrity potioneer stood behind the headmaster's thin, wrinkled hand. Dumbledore turned to look behind him, and his brows furrowed.
Lily Evans Potter was nowhere to be found.
Dumbledore turned back to the students. "Professor Potter went to collect her from the Floo in my office." The headmaster frowned slightly. "She was expected to arrive in time for the banquet in order to meet all of you, but something must be holding her up…"
There were, at that precise moment, several things holding Professor Lily Evans Potter up. In ascending order of importance: A red velvet footstool on which one foot was theoretically resting; her arms, threaded around strong, well-muscled shoulders; a large, calloused hand pushing her thigh up into her chest; and the wall of her headmaster's office, into which Professor James Potter was currently fucking her.
"Oh, fuck—oh, fuck—oh, Jesus fuck , James, yes!" Lily whimpered, whiny and desperate as she bucked her hips against him.
"That's it, baby, scream for m-ah-ah-ohhhh," James groaned when Lily squeezed deliberately around him, nails on his back and teeth on his neck. His thrusts stuttered and his grip on her leg shifted a few inches. "Fuck, I'm not gonna last if you—"
"Good," Lily gasped, and squeezed him again, too far gone to even feel taken aback by what she found she wanted. "You can finish me off after, I just need to feel you spill inside me, James."
"Dirty girl," James groaned. He pulled her face up to meet his in a sloppy kiss even as his other hand hitched her leg up higher again so he could fuck her harder into the wall. In less than a minute, his groans and gasps turned into moans and then whimpers as James came hard and slumped against her, his final thrust sheathing himself in her to the hilt.
The press of him burned deep inside Lily, the weight of him firm and solid and reassuring against every inch of her, the spill of him hot and fast and possessive—'I come here. This cunt is mine.'
Lily shocked herself as she realized she was suddenly close—so close—just from feeling him inside, and she moaned wantonly in his ear, reached for his hand on her face to shove it down between them. She thanked her lucky stars for clever husbands when he found the wherewithal to press two fingers to the place she wanted him most. Lily gasped, teeth grazing his earlobe, and he took that as the encouragement it was, rubbing tight, fast circles that made her writhe in his arms.
"' Making a fucking mess of me, baby," he growled in awe, and Lily pushed her hips up against his fingers, "'M inside you and you're still so fucking wet…"
He made as if to pull away a little, to give himself more space to work, but Lily, with a furious sound, reached out to wrap an arm securely around his waist, holding every part of James against every part of her, pressing the body he'd sworn to her into her own space, feeling him everywhere and reveling in it. This was what she had missed all those weeks away from him, and now every inch of contact felt unbearably erotic, unspeakably essential.
She knew James knew what she was doing from the way he smiled into her skin, but then he kissed her neck, her temple, her cheek, and his lips returned to her ear. In a far gentler whisper: "I'm not going anywhere, sweet girl." One more circle of fingers and an involuntary jolt of his hips into hers... "I'm here. I'm right here."
And she was gone. Lily fell back against the wall, pleasure radiating through her in gut-clenching, toe-curling waves, and her eyes fell shut on a blissful sigh.
Lily's orgasm felt like a 'thank you' from her body and soul. 'Yes,' said each helpless shudder of pleasure, ' Yes, this is what it's like to be fucked right. This is what it's like to be loved. Never let him go again.'
Several boneless minutes later, Lily broke the blissful silence. "I missed you so much, Jay," she whimpered, peppering James's face with kisses.
James grinned softly at her, but couldn't resist prodding, with a significant look down at where he was still buried inside her: "Me or him?"
Lily kissed his lips. "Both." Another kiss. "Either." Another. "I don't have to choose."
James laughed. "You're perfect."
"Okay, fine. We're both perfect."
"It's a Potter family trait."
"I love you."
"I love you t—" but Lily was cut off when the clock on Dumbledore's desk chimed seven and James swore loudly. "Love?"
James pulled out of his wife, and his ego purred when she let out a little whine at the loss of contact. "They're having a banquet tonight. I—er—was supposed to take you to dinner at 6:30 so Albus could introduce you to the students."
Lily's jaw dropped. "I was supposed to see Harry tonight and you didn't tell me?!"
Once they had magically cleaned up both themselves and the headmaster's office and then slid down the banister ("Potter Manor's one thing, James, but this is work! I'm not going to-OhmyGodWHEEEEE!") James set off for the Great Hall at a clip. He tucked his wife under his arm to steer her forward as Lily gazed around, awestruck by the castle that had been her home for seven wonderful years, but which she hadn't seen since for twice that time.
James remembered the strange timeless déjà vu well from his own first day back in the castle as a professor. He'd felt eleven and seventeen and thirty-two and also, somehow, ninety, especially when surrounded by students. The last time he had walked these halls he'd looked like them and felt like an adult, yet now the students all seemed so young…
When they passed a window and Lily released a wondering little 'oh,' James couldn't help but slow to press his lips to the top of her head. He let her tug him toward the window and wrapped his arms around her from behind as she pressed herself against it.
"The Quidditch Pitch," Lily whispered, brushing her fingers against the glass, and James was touched, though unsurprised, to discover she was teary. "You—and Harry—and—oh, James!"
James kissed her cheek, then pressed the side of his face to hers to align their eyelines as closely as possible. He steered her right hand with his so that both their index fingers pointed to a place in the Ravenclaw stands, then whispered, "Yeah, Lil. And you blew me senseless right there."
"Potter!" Lily yelped, as James dissolved into laughter behind her. "Oh my God, I can't believe you're ruining my reminiscences of childhood innocence," she squawked through reluctant laughter, letting James pull her away from the window by the elbows.
"Your innocence?" James cried, feigning offense. "What about my innocence?"
Lily gripped his arms too as she threw her head back laughing. "You never had any innocence."
"Not after the things you did to me in those bleachers, I didn't."
"I don't remember many protests at the time…"
They were less walking than twirling now, giggling as they held each other's forearms and meandered down the hallway, Lily spinning in front of James and then vice versa. James no longer felt any age but seventeen, drunk on first love with the girl who somehow kept proving herself better than all his years of fantasies about her.
Perhaps Lily was having the same thoughts, because she pushed him into a wall not two corridors from the Great Hall and kissed him like she needed to fit in all her teenage hormones before his mates rounded the corner. He cupped her face in both hands and kissed her back with all the same fervor.
A few short minutes later, their urgency was proved prescient when, with a hum and then a murmur and then a roar, hundreds of students spilled out of the Great Hall and into their very corridor.
A minute of awkward confusion followed as a blushing, stuttering Lily tried to seem professional in front of dozens of her new students, most of whom seemed deeply horrified by the idea of their teachers making out with anyone, let alone each other. James probably would've been more helpful if he wasn't quite so busy cracking up.
Then a group of sixth- and seventh-year lads joined the fray, bringing a new sort of energy that sobered James up right quick. He had a firm hand on Lily's lower back and was on the verge of threatening detentions to people who didn't disperse when…
"Baby!" Lily sprinted to her son and flung her arms around him, Harry instantly jumping at her in return. Lily stumbled, and James started forward anxiously—at twelve years old and edging toward five feet, Harry was too big for his mother to really pick up anymore, but neither James's son nor his wife seemed willing or able to acknowledge this fact. James needn't have worried, however, for Lily and Harry both found their feet, and Harry pulled away quickly, blushing red and adjusting his specs.
"I'm twelve, Mum," he said, in a tone that seemed intended to suggest that the hug had been an embarrassing one-sided display by his mother. Lily paid him no heed, kissing the top of his head repeatedly and fussing with his robes as she mumbled a constant stream of sweet nothings. "Mum!" Harry said more severely, looking anxiously at Ron, and then across the hall at Lucius Malfoy's sneering Slytherin son.
"Fine, fine," Lily said, pulling away and managing to sound much more wounded than James suspected she really felt. "I see how it is. Haven't seen your mother in two months, but…"
"Oh my Merlin, can you not?"
"How am I? Why thank you for asking, Harry, my darling son. I've missed you terribly, but—"
Lily relented and began to laugh. She squeezed him one more time, then released him fully. "I'll see you in class tomorrow, Mr. Potter," she called after her son as he scurried away (pausing only momentarily to let his dad ruffle his hair, and then pretending he hadn't).
Just before Harry disappeared around the corner, he turned back for a moment, falling behind the crowd. He scuffed his foot against the floor and rubbed the back of his head. "Mum, are you…are you really here for a whole week?"
James suspected he was the only one who caught the hitch in Lily's voice when she nodded and said, "Yes, Harry. I am."
Harry did a much worse job of hiding his joy. "Cool," he mumbled, lips and eyes twitching, and he disappeared around the corner.
"God, I love that little twerp," Lily wailed as soon as their son's footsteps disappeared, and she promptly buried her face in James's robes and began to sob.
James wrapped both arms around her and held her as her shoulders shook, but her sobs just kept intensifying. "Lil?" he finally murmured, his gut twisting.
"He's—he's here," she finally hiccupped. "I d-d-didn't really g-g-get it that—he's here. I didn't know…d-d-didn't think…"
"We'd all make it here," James finished shakily, comprehension hitting like a Beaters club to the head. He squeezed tight, pressing his lips to the crown of her head, and he closed his eyes briefly as claustrophobia welled up inside him. That cloying, crawling anger and fear that had woven through every day in Godric's Hollow would never truly leave them. Some part of him would always be twenty-one, gripping the windowsill so hard he split the wood, watching and waiting for the world to come hurt his family as he did nothing to stop it.
Eleven years had passed, but seeing Harry happy could still send them back to that hell.
But James Potter had never been a wallower. He pushed his eyes open and his memories away, and he slid his palms down his wife's back to grip her arse. Lily's body under his hands, her heart beating fierce against his…this was real. This was now. "I think you need a pick-me-up, Mrs. Potter," he murmured. "Let's go get you drunk and laid."
October 31st, 1981.
"I should really head to…"
"Harry loves you so much, Wormtail," Lily said, catching the blond man's hand in both of hers as he tried—for the umpteenth time that night—to head to the door. She widened her eyes pointedly at James behind Peter's back, and he held the baby out to his friend.
Peter worried his bottom lip between his teeth, but he relented (again), claiming Harry almost jealously from James's arms and curling the child into his chest.
The whole night had been a strange tug-of-war. They'd invited Peter over ostensibly to thank him for keeping their secret, but in fact because Lily was worried he seemed 'down'. James had felt skeptical at first—of course Peter was down. They were all down. War is hell.—but the events of the night had proven her right, as events so often did. Peter kept trying to leave early, would give no news of the war though he knew Lily and James depended on their friends' dispatches, barely looked up from his plate during dinner even after he wolfed his food in record time.
His behavior with Harry was strangest of all. Sometimes he held him so tight to his chest that James feared Harry's tiny bones would break. A moment later he would look straight over Harry's head as if the child did not exist, even as he babbled or laughed or cried. Lily and James could not make heads or tails of it, so all night they browbeat Pete into staying, plied him with wine, and hoped against hope that their friend would share his pain and let them help.
After Lily's latest maneuver, the blond man landed heavily back on the couch, one arm wrapped possessively around their infant son, his other hand brandishing his wand to entertain him. The baby bounced on his Uncle Wormy's knee, clapping tiny, chubby hands and laughing delightedly at the pretty lights he so loved—the ones James had shown Pete how to cast.
Then the door flew open.
The door flew open, and the high, bone-chilling voice spoke, and James knew who had entered his house, but his first thought was not of betrayal. That was not in James Potter's nature. In that instant, he knew only that their Fidelius Charm had been faulty, and his friend and family were in danger because of it.
"Lily, Wormy, take Harry and go! It's him!" James roared. As he jumped up, he looked one last time at his wife, his son, and his best friend before he charged Lord Voldemort without a wand. He met Lily and Wormtail's eyes for only a split second each, but James would wonder for the rest of his life what he had seen in Peter's face in that instant.
Because a heartbeat later, Peter Pettigrew turned his wand away from Harry to Stun James Potter.