A/N: This was originally posted on ff.n in 2004. I have mixed feelings about it now. It was the most ambitious thing I'd tried to write up to that point, and it has a lot of problems -- it's hard to follow, relies heavily on an OC, has huge plot holes, and parts lack logic. I like the idea, though. I might, at some point, start from scratch and re-write it. I think, somewhere in here, there's something worth saving, which is why I haven't deleted it from everywhere it was ever posted on the internet. The climax is based on a portion of the MASH finale, "Goodbye, Farewell, Amen".

Warning: This is no longer strictly canon-compliant.


Maybe Now

"How are you?"

"How am I supposed to be? Everyone thinks I should be in the nutter ward at St. Mungo's."

"Why do they think that?"

"How should I know?"

"Why are you here?"

"You tell me."

"You Apparated into a Muggle bar, started a brawl, and then tried to perform the Cruciatus Curse on yourself while you were being held in Muggle prison."

"I was having an off day."

"You threatened anyone who touched Harry with Avada Kedavra."


"Do you want to tell me about that?"


"Tell me about that day -- the last day you were with the Order."


It was one of those dreary drizzly England days that couldn't decide between rain and sunshine. It was the beginning of August, the first and only time the Order of the Phoenix met in one of the basement flats of a rundown London complex.

Lily Potter sighed as she rocked her infant son to sleep, careful to stay away from the cold damp walls. "Cloudy days are so depressing."

"I think it may be letting up," said Sirius Black, looking out a small window near the ceiling, through which all one could see was the light splash of rain on pavement.

"I'll believe it when I see it." Remus Lupin was writing furiously on a sheet of parchment and didn't bother to look up. "Just like I'll believe that Voldemort is gone when I see a body and I'll believe that lycanthropy can be cured when I stop transforming."

"You know, Remus, a corpse isn't everything. Voldemort's been lying pretty low for a Dark Lord who's still alive and kicking." Lily smiled at Remus as she added -- "And I do believe that in Romania they castrate werewolves to cure them."

"I've tried a lot of things to get rid of this damn curse, but at some point a man has to draw the line."

Alice Longbottom rolled her eyes. "So you'd rather put the world in danger once a month than give up sex?"

"Admit it, Remus," said Emmeline Vance. "You just don't have the balls to give something like that a try."

"Well if he went along with that little experiment he wouldn't have the balls to do much of anything, would he?" Peter Pettigrew said.

Sirius snorted. "Let's be honest, now. It's not like he could be getting any less action, is it?"

"Jesus, is it National Attack Lupin's Sex-Life Day?" Remus asked, blushing.

"Yes, actually," Sirius admitted. "Today was supposed to be the first annual, but since it was so successful we're thinking of making it a weekly event."

"My good God. Why don't you all leave the poor boy and his testicles alone?"

The speaker was Dorcas Meadowes. Though only just past thirty, she was older and more experienced than many members of the Order and so commanded unusual respect. But Sirius couldn't resist getting in the last word.

"Next Tuesday, everyone. Mark your calendars."

Dorcas just rolled her eyes. "Remus, did you finish that report for me to give to Fabian?"

"Just a second." He squeezed in a final word on the parchment, so close to the bottom that the stem of a p went off the page. "Yes. I'm done, but I doubt there will be anything in here that Dumbledore didn't already know. There really isn't much to report. Just Rodolphus and Rabastan up to no good again. No one's seen hide nor hair of Voldemort or any of the more influential Death Eaters for weeks. Not since the Fenwick incident."

"Poor Benjy," Dorcas sighed. She picked up Remus's parchment and blew on it until the ink had dried. "By the way, has anyone heard form Dearborn recently?" There were several answers of "no" and a general shaking of heads.

"He should have checked in a long time ago. Nine months and not a word. That's not like Caradoc," Emmeline said quietly. "Not at all."

There was silence for a moment until Alice started to laugh. "Look at those three," she said, pointing under a table. Harry Potter, Neville Longbottom, and Janey Meadowes were sleeping all curled up together on an old sofa cushion. "I just hope there's nothing living in that pillow."

"They're adorable," said Emmeline. "How old are they now?"

"Twelve months," Alice and Lily said at the same time before sharing an embarrassed giggle. "The boys are only a few days apart," Lily added.

"Janey is ten months in two days," said Dorcas. "Though I still can't quite believe it. Being responsible for this little life -- it's the most fascinating thing."

"It really is," Sirius said under his breath, and Peter, the only one to hear, gave him a strange look. Sirius shrugged. "You automatically assume I know nothing about babies? I have a godson, don't I?"

Peter rolled his eyes just as Frank Longbottom entered the room. "Is anyone doing a weird spell in here?"

"Like what, honey?" Alice asked.

"Something that would set off the surveillance spell we set up in the kitchen. I was in there making a sandwich and it got completely spastic."

"Everything we're doing now is administrative," said Lily. "It's a lot of parchment-pushing. We know as well as you do that this place isn't secure. We wouldn't pull anything that could get us all killed."

"Okay," Frank said, "then, I say we have a--" his words were cut off as the flat's front door slammed open and shut.

"Everyone pack up; we're moving out." James Potter's strong voice boomed over the cries of the children, startled by the sudden explosion of noise.

Elphias Doge, who came in the door right behind James, ran forward, swept off his trademark hat and began stuffing everything from quills and parchment to lamps inside of it. "Not a second to lose," he said. "Afraid they've found us already."

"Who?" Alice asked, her round face a picture of worried innocence as she clutched Neville tightly and tried to soothe away his tears.

"Don't be dense, darling," snapped Frank. "It's Malfoy, isn't it? No knowing why he's been MIA for the past few weeks, but the holiday is over."

James nodded. "Yeah, it's Malfoy. And a few of his closest friends. We had a nasty run-in with Crabbe and Goyle down Knockturn Alley. They were easy enough to lose, but if there's one thing Malfoy isn't, it's stupid. We couldn't shake him, and we're pretty sure he followed us here."

"Maybe you did lose him," Peter said. "If he followed you wouldn't he have stormed in here already?"

"No." James shook his head. "No, I told you, he's not stupid. He would know that we were going somewhere with a lot of back up. And he's smart enough to know that even with all the Dark Magic he learned at Voldemort's feet, he can't take on half the Order single-handedly. If I know Lucius he's out finding Crabbe, Goyle, maybe Avery or Snape and a few other accomplished Death Eaters."

"Which means we've got a very few minutes to get the hell out of here," Elphias finished.

The flat was alive with activity. Witches and wizards packed up their magical apparatuses and tried to calm the babies.

"Wait, where exactly are we going to go?" someone shouted, and the room came to a sudden halt.

Peter bit his lip and said, "There are no other safe-houses around here. And none of the houses guarded with secret keepers are even in London. This was going to be the first on Friday when we performed the spell."

"Well, we can't Apparate," said Remus. "They're sure to have spells set up to detect that sort of thing. Any magic, actually. I suggest that everyone put away his wand right now."

Lily looked on the verge of crying. "James, why couldn't you have led them some place else?"

"Like where, Lily?" James demanded. "Peter and Remus are right. There isn't another safe-house for miles and we can't risk Apparition. It was either come here or die on the streets of Muggle London." James's voice had escalated to a yell. "At least now we have a chance."

Lily took a deep gulp of air shut her eyes tightly against the flow of tears as she stroked the soft wisps of dark hair on her son's head.

"Oh God, Lily." James clutched his wife's arm. "You know that I didn't mean to say it like that."

She pulled away. "It's fine." She handed Harry to his father. "I'm going to go dismantle the surveillance spell." She walked with false calm into the kitchen.

"I'll mind Harry," Emmeline said, and she took the baby over to a quiet corner of the room.

"James, can I talk to you?" Sirius said. James nodded and massaged his temples as Sirius pulled him roughly aside.

James started when he saw Sirius's face. "What's the matter?"

"What the fuck is this about you going down Knockturn Alley?"

"It's what we do, Sirius."

"No, what we do is keep Voldemort from taking over the world. That doesn't have to involve careless risks."

"Get a grip. We hadn't had any problems recently. It was just a reconnaissance mission that took a bad turn. We'll get out of here, we'll set up a new safe-house, and we'll have it properly secured before we move in."

"What is boils down to is that you got lucky," said Sirius. "You put yourself in danger, and you didn't get killed. You're lucky, James, but lucky can't cut it anymore. We're not sixteen. What about Lily and Harry? What about your family?"

"You don't know the first thing about family."

Sirius swallowed hard. "Maybe I don't. But I do know enough about not having a family to know that I don't want Harry to grow up like I did."

"I don't need you on my case. I know how to take care of myself."

Sirius gave James an icy stare. "You know, you're behaving like a first class arse today. You've got a hell of a lot more to live for than most of us, but you let yourself come closer than anyone else to throwing it all away."

"Believe it or not, everything I do is for Harry."

"He doesn't need a hero, he needs a father."

"This isn't any of your business."

"Harry is my business. You made him my business."

James was kept from further argument by the sound of shattering glass and a stifled scream in the kitchen.

"Oh God."

James ran over to the kitchen threshold with Sirius and the other members of the Order hard on his heels.


"Why was Snape threatening that woman?"

"Why does Snape do anything? He's twisted, perverse."

"Why would James care so much about that woman? Why did Snape address him instead of you, or Frank?"


"What did the woman look like?"

"She was frightened, panicked -- violated."

"But what did she look like?"

A pause, and then: "I don't remember."

"Yes you do. What did she look like?"

Contemplation. "She was beautiful. Her hair was bright. She had freckles that were standing out, dark on her skin. Her eyes..."


"They were deep, indistinct, I don't remember."

"Try harder."


Severus Snape stood in the kitchen, one hand over Lily Potter's mouth and the other holding his wand, firmly pointed at her temple, yet for all the resolution in his stance there was as much fear in his eyes as there was in hers. "You're running the wrong way, Potter," he said.

James was trembling. "Let her go."


"Oh God."

"What is it?"

"Oh God."

"Sirius, tell me."

"It was Lily."


Snape's hand left Lily's mouth and traced a line down her neck and between her breasts. "She hated you for so long, but now ... now, I think, she might even die for you."

"Let her go."

"Think, Potter. I know it's hard, but take a long look at the situation and demonstrate a little common sense. You're not really in a position to bargain. So, here are my terms. I'll let her go, and just to make the whole deal more interesting, I'll give you ten seconds to run before I signal any other Death Eaters to come down here."

"You sadistic bastard," said Peter. "It's like letting a bunch of mice free in a maze where every passage ends in a trap."

"Don't pretend that you don't know what it's like to play the sadist, you Worm," Snape said with the hint of a smile. Then his eyes moved heavily to James and Sirius. "Besides, I think I've been the victim often enough that I deserve to enjoy your terror." He shoved Lily roughly so that she stumbled in to James.


The entire Order stood for a beat in shock before turning and running out of the kitchen.

"Two," they heard Snape yell from behind. Alice held Neville tighter than Sirius had ever seen a woman hold her child before.

"You're a pathetic lot. Run, damnit, save your arses while you've still got a prayer."

Remus made his way over to the front door and pushed it cautiously open. "There's no one out here."

"Oh, what the fuck does that matter?" Frank asked. "They're going to find us whether we're in this flat or two blocks down the street."


Emmeline, with Harry still in her arms, pushed her way past everyone who was crowding the threshold and walked out. "You could all at least pretend to give a fuck what happens to us."

One at a time the Order filed quickly filed out of the flat until only Sirius remained. Snape walked out of the kitchen and mouthed one word. Ten.

Sirius slipped past the door and locked it behind him, fully aware that the lock was hardly a hindrance to wizards.


"You were the last one to leave the flat."

"I guess I was."

"What happened next?"

"You know."

"I want you to tell me."

"I don't remember."

"You do."


"Don't fuck with me, Sirius. This is important. This is the difference between you taking up permanent residence in St. Mungo's and leaving this room, never looking back."

"Go fuck yourself."

"Fine. I'll tell them to make the arrangements for you to be transferred to the psych ward in the morning." Getting up. Walking away.



They went, deathly silent, down the corridor and out on to the street. They were deep in the East Side of London. Religion tended not to hold a very high place in the lives of many magical families, wizardry being a secular belief system in and of itself. Sirius had never seen so many wizards praying before, whispered pleas to often forgotten deities under their breath now that they were afraid to utter a spell.

"Frank, I think that Muggle just gave us a dirty look."

"You're paranoid, Alice."

"What if he's not a Muggle. What if he knows who we are? Or worse, what if he is a Muggle?"

"What could he do to us then?"

"He could be planning to mug us and kill us with his bare hands."

"Oh, would both of you just shut the fuck up?" Remus snapped.

There was a crash and a muffled curse as the Death Eaters stumbled through the flat and made their way closer to the street.

Emmeline paled and looked ready to pass out. "What are we going to do?"

Remus shoved her down behind a skip bin. "Hide, for fuck's sake, hide, and pray with everything you've got that they think we're a lot cleverer than we are."


"You hid in the alley behind the flat building."

"That's what I said, isn't it?"

"That must have been terrifying."

"You should know."

"Why do you remember this part so easily? Why did you repress your memory of Lily being threatened, of leaving the flat, and yet this is easy to recall?"

"There's nothing about this that's easy."

"What happened after you hid?"


"It won't go away. What ever happened won't stop being true just because you deny it."

"It has to."

Silence on the other side.


"It won't be easier tomorrow."

"It has to be."

"It won't."


Sirius was sitting in a skip bin. The garbage had a sickly sweet scent that made him feel like he was going to vomit. James, Peter, Dorcas and Janey, Alice and Neville were all with him, lying on old takeaway containers, rotting food, and scraps of paper.

"This is a new low," Peter whispered.

"You're a fucking rat," James said. "You should feel at home."

"Shh." Alice's breathing was suddenly heavy. They heard the door to the flat building burst open, and Death Eaters poured into the alley.

Now Sirius was sure he was going to vomit. His retching was going to be the death of at least seven people. He had never been more scared in his life -- until a moment later.


"There was a sound."

"What kind of sound."

"A sound. I don't know. Just all of a sudden, and I thought ... we were all as good as dead that moment."

"Was it an animal?"


"Was it human?"


Janey whimpered.

"What was that?"

"It's a baby, fool."

"Did someone bring a baby?"

"Shut up, Goyle. Of course no one brought a baby."

"Then what made that noise?"

"Somebody out on the main street probably rolled a pram by."

"It was in this alley. I heard it."

"What, do you think there's a baby hiding in the fucking skip bin?"

"I dunno. There could be."

Dorcas tried to get Janey to nurse, but the newly weaned infant would have nothing to do with her mother's breast. Alice was silently shifting, moved by some primal instinct to cover Neville with sour smelling takeaway cartons in hopes that if everyone else was caught, he would be spared.

Janey cried.

Sirius heard the Death Eaters freeze. Alice's face fell. James was holding his breath. Dorcas didn't move. She just lay, staring at her daughter in horror.


"Time just ... stopped. No one was doing anything."

"No one but you?"

"It wasn't my fault."

"What wasn't?"

"You know, God damn you! Why are you doing this to me?"

"Because I love you."


Sirius pulled Janey toward him and hesitated for a moment.

Then he covered her small face with his hand.


"Are you sure you still love me?"

"I always will."

"You love a murderer."

"I love the best friend that I ever had."

"James, how old were we when we met?"

"You were eleven, I was just a few weeks shy of it."

"That's a long time from twenty-two."

"Half our lives."

"Did you ever think that I'd grow up to kill a woman and her child in cold blood?"

"You saved a lot of lives by doing what none of us could. And you can't hold yourself responsible for what happened to Dorcas. She took on Voldemort single-handedly. She knew what was going to happen."

"I killed her will to live."

"I don't trust my son's life in the hands of murderers, but I trust him with you."

"Am I the exception to the rule?"

"You are the rule. For a bachelor with no kids, you do know how to bring me into line."

Pause. "It's the only thing that makes it all worthwhile. I mean, you fight Death Eaters and bust your arse trying to keep Voldemort from realising world domination, but sometimes it seems like the only thing you do is sit back and watch your friends die and it all seems so pointless. But I look at you holding Harry, and somehow it all makes sense."

"Even Dorcas?"