Disclaimer: I own nothing, all characters and ideas (except the pendant) belong to JK Rowling.
"Love, like death, changes everything." - Anonymous
"Lily! Take Harry and go! It's Him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off-- "
Harry… James… Harry…James…
The two most beautiful names in the world beat a panicked rhythm into her skull, a nearly hypnotic taunt of what she stood to lose. He was here. All their efforts had failed. They were betrayed, and they were alone.
Vomit rose, unbidden and burning, in the back of Lily's throat. She was snapped out of her hypnotized state by an insistent shaking on her arm. Lily broke off her gaze into the sink, and looked into James's hazel eyes, their usual good-natured sparkle replaced by a mind-numbing chaos of emotions.
She felt like she was going to cry.
"Lily…" James whispered, lingering but a moment to stroke his hand across her face. Somehow, in the pit of her stomach, she knew that this was to be the last time she would feel his rough, calloused skin catch on her own soft cheek. Never again would she hear her name called out in his deep, gruff voice in the heat of passion, never again would they gaze into each other's eyes, each other's souls. Never again would their two hearts beat in tandem as they lay asleep, wrapped in each other's arms, a full summer moon spreading pale light across the room through the open window.
Memories threatened to overcome her. Her mind flashed back, abruptly.
It was the loveliest of days, a crisp, clear autumn morning. Lily sat before a mirror, her red hair cascading over her shoulder, refracting golden specks of light from the new day's sun, glistening through the frost on her window. Her heart was already beating madly. She giggled at her nervousness. So silly, really. She'd been prepared for this day for years.
"Guess who!" A pair of warm hands descended over her eyes, blocking out the sun and pitching her into darkness. She yelped.
"Of course I know who you are, you prat. Isn't it customary for a groom to wait to see his bride?"
The hands lifted from her eyes, and Lily twisted around in her chair. Green eyes met hazel. She smiled at the rather Cheshire-like grin on her beloved's face. "James, darling, you're really quite impatient."
"Sorry, Evans." He winked.
"That's quite enough of that!" Lily stuck out her bottom lip teasingly. "I'm not going through all of this pomp and circumstance to remain an Evans, you know, and it would do you well to remember it!"
"I apologize, Mrs. Potter." James gave a low bow, and then knelt before Lily. "To make it up to you… I come bearing gifts."
Lily's eyes widened as James reached into his coat pocket and drew out a golden necklace, spinning daintily on a thin chain. Spots of light danced across the walls and ceiling as the sun hit the pretty little thing.
"Oh…" Lily breathed admiringly. James let out a shaky breath and ran his fingers through his messy hair, as if he had been nervous as to her reaction.
James reached around her neck and fastened the clasp. The heart glowed red for a quick minute, and then sat warm against the porcelain skin of her chest.
"It's a Carus pendant, S'been in my family for generations. It's worn by two people in love. My mum used to wear it, until my dad died. She gave it to me, to give to you. I have one too, you see?" He pointed at his neck, and Lily noticed the thin thread of gold disappearing under his shirt. "The necklace grows hot and glows red when the two… lovers…" At this James waggled his eyebrows, and Lily flushed deeply, "when the two lovers are feeling particularly… loving. It stays warm for as long as I live," he murmured, because I will never, ever stop loving you."
Lily's eyes brimmed with tears. "You magnificent man, you. Have you any idea how much I love you?"
James' eyes sparkled. "You may just have to show me."
Two mouths met fervently, and the sun rose higher in the bright blue sky. Life was as it should be.
A cackle of high-pitched laughter and banging on back patio door rudely knocked Lily back to reality. "I love you," she whispered brokenly. She briefly met his lips with her own, and then turned without a backward glance as tears ran down her cheeks. Stumbling blindly out of the room, she grabbed the pendant, its heat searing into her hand as she listened to James run down the stairs.
With a horrible cracking noise that Lily knew was the door breaking down, her heart broke.
They had run out of time.
Lily barreled into Harry's room, hair wild and face deathly pale. The baby was leaning over the railing of his cot, innocently elated at the sight of his mother, a smile on his pudgy face and James's twinkle in his bright green eyes.
Oh, my Harry…
"It's alright Harry… Mummy's here."
Lily lifted Harry out of his crib, intending to tandem apparate the two of them to safety. But a cruel, chilling voice from downstairs stopped her cold.
The pendant on her chest glowed red and hot, then abruptly turned ice cold.
No… God, no… Lily could feel a wail of grief rising in her like bile. Stuffing her fist in her mouth, she tried to get her mind to move.
Harry. Think of Harry.
Focusing on her own eyes on the face of her precious son, she again lifted a shaky yet determined arm and concentrated on the destination, waiting for the bumpy ride that would take them to safety.
It never came.
Lily's mind went quite blank. Of course we can't just apparate out. He would have seen to that.
She let herself wail, her one selfish allowance, before adrenaline knocked out rational thought, sending her memories and her feelings spinning and spinning, a tornado in her mind.
Frantically, she locked Harry's bedroom door, and shoved the cabinet in front of it.
James hand made that cabinet. He was so proud…
She placed Harry into his tiny crib…
James made that, too. Smashed his finger with the hamme. Cursed so much that I taped his mouth shut. Oh, how we laughed and laughed.
…and shoved it against the far wall.
He was coming; she knew that nothing, even locking and barricading
the door, could stop him.
Slowly, as if she were moving underwater, Lily turned to face her sweet son.
"Oh, Harry. Oh, my darling boy," she said softly, kneeling down, eye to eye with her baby.
"I have so many hopes and dreams for you, love.
"I hope you will find close, dear friends that you can rely on for everything; most importantly, a best friend – one that you can tell secrets to, to have scuffles, and to go on little boy adventures with . You will need a loyal friend. Life won't be easy for you, and you need someone you can always count on.
"I want you to have your heart's desires in life, but, more importantly, trials and tribulations – because out of them comes a strength of character that one can only get from the tough things in life.
"I want your first kiss from a girl to be what you'd always hoped it would be. And remember, we seldom find love in our firsts. So don't be disappointed if she turns out not to be the woman of your dreams. You will find that woman. Trust me on this, your idea of a perfect partner may be completely different than what you end up with."
A loud banging interrupted Lily's words. He was looking for them. She sped up her pace, and wiped at the tears on her cheek. Harry listened raptly, aware, in his little baby mind that something simply was not right with his mum. Lily bit back a sob.
"Oh Harry. I mostly wish I could be there for you, but I can't. Your father can't. We can't be there to hug you as you leave for your first day at school. I can't scrutinize your girlfriends and push and prod you like a mother should. Your daddy can't fix your dress robes on your wedding day. But we're here, Harry. We always will be here."
Lily felt peace suddenly descend upon her. Harry's green eyes stared up at her, and his usually jovial face held seriousness reminiscent of her own.
As if he understood that this would well be the very last moment he looked into his mummy's eyes, Harry reached up a chubby, dimpled hand and mimicked Lily by putting his own hand on her cheek.
Lily's tears ran unchecked down her face, and she leaned into him until their noses almost touched.
"I love you Harry, and I promise you, right here and now – as long as I am able to protect you, no harm will ever come to you."
She then kissed him, directly over his left eyebrow. She poured everything into that simple kiss – her hopes and dreams, her thoughts, and most of all, her love. She felt as though she were pouring her entire life into Harry, and her tears fell onto his brow. The wind stirred the curtains by the open window
With a flash of light, the door burst open and the cabinet splintered and tore in half.
"Not Harry!" The commanding voice coming from her mouth was one she did not recognize as she swirled around to meet her death; she stood there, her hands curled into fists, her feet firmly planting her directly in front of Harry.
Keeping him safe.
"Not Harry!" she bellowed again, and looked in to the face all wizards hoped they would never see. The cold red eyes were turned up in, remarkably, laughter.
"Please." Lily tried to appeal to what goodness he may have left, although she knew it was in vain. "I'll do anything."
Voldemort looked at her quite coldly. "Stand aside – stand aside, girl-"
"NO!" She screamed this, her face flushed in rage.
He looked almost bored as he raised his wand.
In the split second of time she had left, Lily turned to face Harry. Looking into his eyes, little mirrors of her own, she somehow… knew. Knew that he would be everything she had hoped and dreamed. She knew he would be alright, because she would protect him, now and forever.
Lily sighed, and looked heavenward. Her work was done. I'm coming so very soon, James.
Maybe it was her imagination, but the locket still around her neck seemed to glow red, ever so slightly, warm against her chest.
In those last moments, she did not hear the deadly words that caused the green flash of death, nor did she hear the curse as it advanced upon her. She saw only bright green eyes on the face of a beautiful baby boy with messy black hair.
We'll be with you, Harry. Forever.
A/N: Reviews of all kinds are welcome. This, too, is a revamped version of a story I posted on Checkmated. I like this one better ;)