Looking Beyond the Mark

The trip from Surrey to St. Mungo's was excruciating for James. His leg was throbbing worse than ever, and he was starting to see spots just as a mediwitch swooped in to examine him.

"Got another one, Georgina," the woman said as she conjured a stretcher for James to lay on. "Is exam room twelve cleared yet?"

James was forced back onto the stretcher so he didn't see the source of the voice that spoke next; he presumed it to be Georgina.

"Only just. Levitate him in there and I'll assist as soon as I'm finished with my Splinching."

"Stop fidgeting," the mediwitch hovering over James said, and pointed her wand at the stretcher.

"And a pleasant hello to you," James retorted, catching her name on the tag hanging from her ample bosom. "A bit busy are you...Elizabeth?"

The witch rolled her pretty hazel eyes. "You're a bright one, aren't you?" She floated him to the exam room and the door clicked shut behind them. "Strip," she commanded and James did a double-take.

"Excuse me?"

Without looking up from where she was donning a white robe over her uniform, she explained, "I need you to take off your clothes, or I can't give you a proper diagnosis."

James complied, but hit a snag when he got to his leg. The trousers were ripped, but every time he tried to push them down past the break, a great well of pain shot through him.

"Need a hand?" Elizabeth asked with a smirk. "If you do it quickly, the pain won't last as long."

"Er," he croaked. "Can't you just...sever the trouser leg or something?"

There was a definite twinkle in her eye as she did exactly that and removed his trousers completely. James was not going to take off his underwear for this exam.

"Right," she said, assuming a business attitude once more. "Let's look at that leg."

A beam of purple light shone from her wand and she ran it up and down the area around the break. "Pretty nasty, but I've seen worse. What spell was it?"

James did a double take. "I'm sorry? I didn't say it was a spell."

Elizabeth's lips thinned as she surveyed him. "I'm not stupid, you know? I'm not going to buy a lame story about a Quidditch accident. I get about twelve cases like you every day. There's a war going on, and we're the ones that have to pick up the mess. Now...which spell was it?"

Shaking his head in defeat, James shrugged and answered, "I dunno. Things were moving pretty fast, so I'd be guessing at best." When her icy gaze continued to freeze the room, he added, "All right... I remember being hit with something hard, so he probably just Banished something at me and hit my leg?"

"Well," she said finally, "at least I won't have to worry about latent curses." She popped on a pair of glasses whose lenses resembled two large, glass donuts. "Lie down," she commanded. "This is going to hurt."

When James arrived home later that evening after a debriefing at Order Headquarters, his leg was stiff, his back was sore, and his ego bruised. He had come to find out that Elizabeth the mediwitch, was none other than Elizabeth Jones, a Slytherin in the year ahead of him who had been the butt of one too many of the Marauders' pranks. Although he was healed, it hadn't been without a good dose of payback for the years of fun they'd had at her expense.

He opened the front door and walked inside, only to be smothered by his wife's embrace.

"Oh, James," she cooed, hugging all the air out of his lungs. "I was so worried."

Holding her just as fiercely, James kissed her hair and inhaled her scent. It had always been a source of comfort for him. "I'm sorry, love. Things got a bit dicey there, at the end."

Lily led him to the sofa and he was pleasantly surprised to see a serving of tea set out for them. He sat next to her and gratefully took a proffered mug.

"Tell me everything," she prompted, taking a sip of her own tea.

James recounted everything, almost exactly as he had for Dumbledore, except with a little more embellishment when it came to the part where he and Arthur had dueled the Death Eaters. He was about to finish up when Lily interrupted.

"You're a wonderfully brave man, James. And even though my love for you sometimes distorts my view of who you are, I can tell you're holding something back."

Looking at her smirk at him like she often did, he realized that she knew something about his adventure that he hadn't told her, and he would likely be in trouble for it. "You...uh, can?"

"Yes," she confirmed. "That, and I've got it on good authority that your partner managed to walk away from the night's...events in better shape than you." James shifted on the sofa. "Oh...and someone from St. Mungo's popped in by Floo asking about you. A real looker, too. Elizabeth Jones ring a bell?"

Unable to fight it, a flush rose on his cheeks. "She was the mediwitch who patched me up," he confessed.

"You needed to see a mediwitch? James, you've got to be more careful with yourself. This isn't playtime at Hogwarts anymore!"

James set his mug down next to hers. "Lils, I know."

She apparently wasn't done, however. "Because if something happened to you..." Her sentence trailed off and she began to blink her eyes. A tear managed to escape, anyway. "If something happened to you or...Harry, I don't know what I'd do."

His heart broke, and he took his wife in another embrace. He was grateful that she let him. "I know, love. I'm sorry for worrying you, but sometimes...sometimes there are things so evil out there – things so completely opposed to all the happiness and peace we want for our children that it's worth sacrificing what we have to protect it. And if we don't, we're as good as helping the likes of Voldemort to take over."

Lily sniffed and nodded her head. "You're right, of course. I just worry so..."

Pulling away from her, he stared into her eyes and said, "Don't. We can't worry about it, or it'll eat us alive. We need to be strong for each other and for Harry."

She nodded again. "We need to live our lives so that Harry can grow up in a normal home."

"Exactly," James confirmed. "Like his birthday. I've been eyeing those miniature brooms at Quality Quidditch..."

"No," Lily said adamantly, but there was a twinkle in her eye. "I'm not letting you buy one of those for him, James. He's too young."

"But Lils," he protested, "he won't be more than six inches off the ground."

There was a pause in which he thought he would lose the argument, so serious was the look on her face. "We'll think about it. Right now, I've got to put him to bed."

Lily stood, and James stood with her. "I'll come help you."

She looked a bit shocked by his offer, but smiled nonetheless. They began to walk up the stairs and James winced with every movement of his leg.

Lily turned a serious eye on James again. "Don't think I have forgotten about Miss Jones, by the way. I want to hear what she did to you at St. Mungo's – I don't trust her as far as I could Banish her."

James smirked despite himself. "Yes, love."

Harry was already asleep among a pile of toys he had been playing with. The peaceful expression on his face was so adorable that James felt a great well of joy burst within him. It was so striking that he had the glimmer of a memory float past his mind. Something about Arthur's daughter...

Popping home to the Burrow, Arthur let out his breath in relief that he hadn't Splinched himself along the way. He was confident in his Apparition skills, just not in his constitution. The fight with James against the Death Eaters had been quite a bit more harrowing than he had expected, and as his knees wobbled on his way to the sofa, he reflected on his wisdom in choosing not to go into law enforcement like his school friends.

"Arthur?" called Molly from the kitchen. "Is that you?"

He sat heavily onto the sofa and felt the adrenaline leave his system, causing a brief surge of shaking to pass him. "I'm in here, love." Laying his head back onto a squashy pillow, he closed his eyes and willed his body to relax.

"Arthur?" came Molly's voice again, this time closer and with a very distinct note of concern. "What happened?"

He opened his eyes and watched her heavily-pregnant body waddle over to him. She placed her hand on his forehead and withdrew it suddenly. "You've gone all cold, and...you're bleeding." She wiped her hand on the apron that covered her dress, leaving a streak of crimson.

"Bit of a scuffle at work, dear, nothing serious."

"Nothing serious," she repeated, now fully appraising him with her keen eyes. "As if a gash, torn robes, a pound of dirt, and you looking like you've almost died was an everyday occurrence."

Arthur winced at her succinct description of his condition. "Yeah, well...you should have seen the other guys."

"And what have you been doing that's put you in such a state, Arthur Weasley?" Her tone brooked no argument; Arthur would have to confess everything.

"You remember what Dumbledore wanted to see me about?" he queried.

Her eyes narrowed. "He hasn't got you involved with this war, has he?"

Arthur felt his strength return and stood, facing his wife. "Molly... you know how desperate things are out there. They need every able witch and wizard they can find. You-Know-Who is gaining ground every day. We've got to act."

"And what about your family?" she retorted hotly. "Who's going to raise them when you've been killed on some fool's errand?" Her hands moved automatically to cradle her stomach. "Who will be this one's father when you're dead?"

With a sigh, he reached out his hands to her shoulders and locked eyes with her. "Molly," he said solemnly, "I promise I won't do anything stupid, and I promise I'll be here to see this one married and having babies of her own." He moved his hands down to rest on her belly as well, and received a sharp kick from its inhabitant.

Molly's face softened immediately. "Do you... really think it'll be a girl this time?"

For some reason, a distant thought grazed the edges of his mind – something about his next child being a girl – but it left just as quickly. "I do," Arthur answered. "And she'll be raised by a mother and a father that love her." The baby kicked again, right on the spot where his right hand laid.

They embraced then, and the baby kicked and kicked where Molly's stomach came into contact with Arthur. They stepped apart and shared a laugh. "Well," said Arthur, "I guess this one's a bit keen to be born, wouldn't you say?"

Molly kissed his cheek and tugged on his hand. "Let's get you cleaned up. Dinner's almost ready."

As he let his pregnant wife lead him into the kitchen, he couldn't shake the feeling that he'd forgotten something. After trying to capture the memory of whatever it was, he soon gave up and concentrated on the delectable smells of roast lamb and steamed potatoes. It was good to be home.