Chapter 20

All Through The Night

After the door shut behind Remus and Tonks, Lily faced the others and said, "Listen! Do you hear that?"

Everyone was suddenly tense, listening, straining to hear whatever sound had apparently startled her. Just as Harry was starting to draw his wand from his pocket, Lily smiled and said, "That is the sound…of silence."

The others all laughed, and Harry let go of his wand as he, Ginny, and the Potters made their way back to the sitting room. There, they lit a normal fire in the grate, and soon its flames were crackling merrily.

James played with his son on the floor, while Harry and Ginny sat on the sofa. Lily seemed a tiny bit lost without everyone else there, and started picking up the sitting room, feeding bits of trash and paper into the fire. Finally, James grabbed her hand and pulled her down beside him.

"Stop running around, love! You're ruining the mood!" he complained, grabbing her around the waist to stop her from getting up.

"But I really should do the cleaning up – the kitchen is a mess –" she tried to say, but James immediately shushed her. "We'll deal with it tomorrow," he said firmly. "Better yet, I'll deal with it tomorrow. You've done enough – you deserve a bit of a rest."

"No you won't! I'll come down to a dirty kitchen before you even wake up, you lie about," she replied, and he pretended to be angry.

"Lie about!" he said with false indignation. "Who was it cooked breakfast a few days ago and cleaned up after, hmm?"

"Let's see…you did clean up after, I'll give you that. But buttering toast does not count as cooking breakfast," Lily shot back, a smile dancing around her mouth.

Harry watched his parents, smiling as they bickered happily back and forth. He kissed Ginny on the head, still watching them.

"This is what marriage should be like," he whispered, and she nodded, squeezing his hand. "Happy, energetic, and with enough room for error when someone screws up."

Ginny laughed softly. "Yeah, especially since every screw up will be your fault," she teased. "I, on the other hand, am perfect and will never screw up, ever. You'll be groveling at my feet every day."

"Oh really, Miss Perfect?" Harry asked, digging his fingers into Ginny's sides and tickling her.

"Really! Really! Oh, Merlin, stop it! You're driving me mad!" she squealed, squirming and giggling. "I swear, Harry Potter, when I get loose –"

"You'll what? Make me grovel? Looks like you're the one groveling now!" Harry shouted triumphantly, continuing to tickle her mercilessly until she dissolved completely into laughter.

"You know," said James, watching the couple on the couch thoughtfully. "That seems like –"

"A pretty good idea?" his wife finished, sneaking her arms around him and attacking his stomach. James shouted with laughter and attempted to turn the tables, but she held her own for a few minutes before he managed to grab her wrists.

"Ah HA! I have you now!" he shouted, and she giggled.

"You do indeed, dear. But before this degenerates completely, I'm going to get the baby washed up and ready for bed." She gave him a look as she picked up her son. "We'll finish this later."

James sighed as she stood and picked up the baby.

"Ready to go night-night, Harry?" she asked him, and he waved his arms.

"Ni ni!" he said, waving his chubby arms, and everyone laughed as Lily took him upstairs. James stood as well, stretching his arms above his head and yawning hugely before picking up where Lily had left off earlier.

"See? I'm cleaning!" he said to Harry and Ginny. "And she calls me a lie about, honestly! Watch, I'll have all this done by the time she gets back downstairs."

Harry and Ginny watched him for a few minutes as he made his way into the kitchen.

"We should probably try to help him," said Harry, after a loud clatter from the kitchen and some equally loud swearing made them both jump.

"We probably should," Ginny sighed, not moving. "But I'm so comfortable."

A moment later, a bang and more swearing had Harry pushing Ginny up so that he could go help his father, and she followed him into the kitchen, grumbling. They found him standing at the sink, his hands covered in bubbles as he tried to scrub a pot that was, unfortunately, larger than the sink itself. They exchanged looks, sighed, and jumped into the fray, wands extended.

A short while later, the kitchen was clean, the baby was asleep, and everyone was curled cozily in various spots. Harry and Ginny were on the couch, while James was sprawled in an armchair, Lily at his feet as he stroked her hair. Then, all of a sudden, Lily straightened, a sudden frown crossing her face.

"Harry, did you ever hear from your friends if they got home safe?" she asked before craning her neck to look up at James. "Or Remus?"

Harry shook his head. "No, I haven't. I forgot they were supposed to let us know – hang on, we can call them with the mirrors. Ginny? Where's the one Hermione gave us?"

"It's up in the room – hang on, I'll get it," she said, getting to her feet as Lily stood.

"James, do you think you should Floo Remus?" she asked, but he shook his head, placing a quieting hand on her arm.

"Let's wait until we hear back from Harry's friends – he might've lingered there a bit. If he's not there when they call, I'll Floo him," he said soothingly. "I'm sure they just forgot – Remus and Lizzy looked a bit distracted when they left." He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, and Lily laughed, relaxing slightly. Then Ginny came downstairs.

"Right, here, I'll call Hermione," she said, sitting next to Harry. "Hermione! Hermione, are you there?"

The mirror fogged for a moment, and then cleared to reveal Hermione's anxious face. "Ginny! We were just about to call you! Have you heard from Remus or T – Lizzy? They're not back yet!"

Ginny frowned. "But you and Ron got back okay, right?" Hermione nodded.

"Yes, we got back about an hour ago, and I know that they were walking back so I didn't expect them right away, but if they're planning on staying out all night, they really need to let us know! It's dangerous!" Hermione said in worried tones. "I wonder if we should go look for them. What do you think?"

Ginny looked up at the worried faces around her. "Let me check with the Potters, and then I'll check back. And make sure that you use the mirror if they show up!"

Hermione nodded, and the mirror fogged again, then reverted to normal, reflecting the room around it.

"James, you need to Floo Remus," Lily said firmly. "Maybe they decided to go to his place after their walk instead of back to the hotel. And give him a good scolding for me when you talk to him!"

James nodded briskly and strode to the fire, tossing Floo Powder on it and shouting, "Number 18, 136 Harrbinger Road!" He strode into the emerald flames, but moments later he was back, shouting for Lily to come quick and bring her Healing supplies. She ran up to their bedroom and was back in a flash, carrying a large box, and a light green bag with the words "St. Mungo's Hospital Emergency Supplies" emblazoned on both of them.

"Here, wait, let us help!" said Harry, rushing forward to take the bag from Lily. She nodded curtly and beaconed for them to follow as she threw more powder on the flames. But as she took a step forward, she hesitated, and looked back over her shoulder.

"Ginny, I hate to ask, but could you stay behind with the baby? We'll be back as soon as we can," she added, her forehead crinkled with worry.

Ginny opened her mouth to protest, and then shut it at the plea in Lily's eyes. She nodded, and stepped back away from the fire. Lily smiled her thanks, then turned and shouted the address again before walking into the green fire, followed by Harry.

When they stepped out of the fireplace at Remus' flat, they saw James hovering around Remus and Tonks, who seemed to be covered in blood.

"Oh no! What happened?" exclaimed Lily, running over with Harry right behind her.

"Death Eaters," grunted Tonks, holding a bandage to her forehead as Lily muttered spells over her leg. As Harry watched, the large gash in her calf mended itself, and the blood pouring from it slowed to a trickle, and then stopped all together.

Remus was stretched out on the floor, pale and unmoving as blood seeped through his shirt. James was kneeling next to him, chanting something that seemed to be slowing the bleeding.

"Lily! You're the expert here," he called over his shoulder at her. She left Tonks, who seemed have minor wounds, to examine Remus.

"It looks like he was knocked out," she said, and opened his shirt to get to the wounds. "These aren't too bad, though they certainly aren't great."

"But he'll be fine, right?" asked Tonks, her voice a whisper, and her face nearly as pale as Remus'. Lily nodded slowly as she healed him, and he revived a few minutes later.

"Lizzy!" he gasped, jerking awake. "Where – where is she? James! James is she all right? I tried – " he broke off with a painful moan, clutching his chest. Tonks hurried to his other side and took his hand.

"I'm fine, Remus, everyone's fine, we're safe. We're back at your flat," she soothed, stroking her thumb across the back of his hand. "Lily's working on you – she said you should be all right."

"But what – what about you?" he wheezed, and she smiled. "She's already fixed me, mostly," she replied. "I told you, I'm fine. Don't worry about me – you just concentrate on feeling better." He nodded and fell back, still clutching at her hand. She shifted so that his head was in her lap, and he smiled, eyes closed.

A short while later, he was well enough to sit up, though he still winced when he moved too quickly. Lily had given him a potion to drink that she said would work on him through the night.

"Now then, what happened?" asked James once Remus and Tonks were out of danger. "I know you said Death Eaters, but I need details – I've got to make sure we're all safe."

Tonks glanced at Remus, who began. "Well, we were on the path from your cottage that leads to the main road. It was snowing, and everything was quiet. We weren't paying as much attention as we should have been, but it seemed fairly safe."

Tonks blew out a breath and shook her head. "Stupid," she muttered under her breath. "I was stupid – I let myself get distracted." Remus patted her hand.

"It's okay, Lizzy – " he started to say, but she cut him off.

"No, it's not okay!" she shouted. "I'm an Auror – it's my job to be aware of my surroundings and not get caught in traps like that! We knew there was Death Eater activity in the area – I should have known better! I shouldn't have let my guard down!"

"Lizzy," Remus said, an edge creeping into his voice. "Stop blaming yourself – I was there too, remember? I have just as much responsibility as you do! I might not be an Auror, but I'm in the Order of the Phoenix, and I've been fighting this war in one way or another since I was seventeen!"

He took a deep breath, before continuing in a calmer voice. "Besides, my hearing and sense of smell are incredibly sharp, thanks to my furry little problem." James snorted, and Remus glanced in his direction. "I thought that I'd be able to sense an assailant before he got too close."

"Anyhow, we'd only stopped for a moment when we were attacked – I'm not sure by how many – it all happened so fast – but there were at least five, maybe seven or eight all together." He looked over at Tonks. "Did you manage to get a count?"

She nodded. "I counted seven all together, though I think there might've been more coming – I heard one of them shout to the others about 'reinforcements' before we got out of there."

"How did you get out of there?" Harry asked, leaning forward. Remus smiled and looked over at Tonks again.

"It was Lizzy – she's brilliant in a fight," he said, admiration in his voice as Tonks blushed. "She managed to stun at least three of them, and gave me enough room to Apparate us here. I think that's where some of our wounds might've come from – did you get Splinched? I forgot to ask," he said, but she shook her head.

"No, I'm pretty sure it was just Death Eater's that got me," she replied. "I didn't see any faces either – they were all hooded and masked." She sighed and rubbed her face wearily. "I looked for identifying marks but I didn't see any – they were all well covered. I don't really have anything to add."

James nodded. "Thanks, Lizzy," he said, and then smiled at her. "And thanks for saving my friend," he added quietly, and she blushed again.

"I didn't really do anything," she murmured, and then her voice hitched for a moment. "It – it was my fault we were even out there – I'm the one that wanted to walk back instead of Apparate."

She looked over at Remus, her eyes suspiciously bright. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm so sorry for putting you in danger. I – "

But Remus reached over and placed his fingers over her lips, effectively silencing her. "I wanted to go too," he said. "All I had to say was say no."

"But you didn't," she said through his fingers, and he smiled. "No," he said. "I didn't."

They stared at each other for a long moment until James cleared his throat loudly, and they both started.

"Well," he said, slapping his knees and standing quickly. "I guess that's all we need to know – we should probably get back now. And, you know, tell the others about what happened. You need any help settling in?" he asked Remus, but Remus shook his head.

"No, I think I can manage," he said, though he looked shaky on his feet.

"Look, I'll stay here," Tonks said after a hard look at Remus' still-pale face. "I mean, I know I'm not in the greatest shape myself, but at least I'm better than he is. I can watch over him. Besides, I don't really feel like I could take Apparation again."

"And you shouldn't!" said Lily. "You're barely fully healed as it is – really, you both need to rest. Once Remus drinks that potion, he'll be out like a light, and I'm going to leave something for you too, Lizzy. You should both feel like your old selves in the morning."

Tonks smiled at Lily's suddenly brisk manner. "Your patients must always get better if you talk to them like that! They're probably afraid not to!" Lily grinned at her and cracked her knuckles. Everyone laughed.

"Tell Ron and Hermione where I am and that I'm all right when you talk to them, all right?" she asked, and Lily nodded.

"Of course," she promised as she hugged them both carefully, though Remus still winced slightly. "Get some rest."

The others said good-bye and stepped into the Floo one by one. As soon as they stepped out of the fire, Ginny started pelting them with questions.

"What happened? Are Remus and Tonks all right? Was it the Death Eaters? I called Hermione back to let her know that you'd all gone to Remus', but she wants more details as soon as possible. Oh, and the baby's fine," she added as Lily hurried up the stairs. "Not even a peep."

Lily paused halfway up and smiled down at her. "Thank you, Ginny – I knew you'd take good care of him."

"Well of course!" Ginny replied, grinning. "I want him to grow up, don't I?" She rubbed Harry's arm as she said it, and he felt his ears turn red. He cleared his throat as Ginny called Hermione with the mirror, and hurriedly began explaining what had happened. Once everything had been explained, Hermione sighed so loudly that it sounded like she was in the room with them.

"Well, I guess all we can do now is meet back up in the morning," she said, and James reluctantly agreed with her.

"Yeah, everyone's safe and well guarded, and there's not really anything we can do until then – it'd be mad to search the woods in this darkness, and they're probably all gone anyway," he said glumly.

They all said their goodbyes and tried to settle around the sitting room, but James immediately got up to pace, unable to sit still. Harry knew how his father felt – he felt helpless and ineffective, unable to protect the ones he loved. He tightened his arms around Ginny.

Lily stood abruptly. "James, let's go to bed, I'm tired." He looked up instantly, still on edge, but nodded and followed her up the stairs. They paused at the top.

"Good night," Lily called down to them.

"I hope you sleep well, when you get the chance," added James, a bit grimly.

"I'll probably be awake a bit longer, but thanks," he replied, and Ginny nodded as the Potters disappeared into their room.

Harry sighed and dropped his head to Ginny's shoulder once they were gone.

"Ginny…you don't think this Death Eater activity is because we're here, do you? That it's my fault?" he asked, and strands of her hair swept across his face as she turned her head.

She lifted his face and looked him dead in the eye. "Harry Potter, you listen to me: what happened to Remus and Tonks was not your fault. Voldemort's been after your parents for months – of course he's got Death Eaters patrolling the woods! He probably figures that they'll let their guard down because it's Christmas or something."

"But they kind of did – " he began, but she covered his mouth with hers, silencing him effectively. After a moment, she pulled away.

"It's not your fault," she said firmly. "Get it through your thick skull."

He raised an eyebrow and grinned slyly. "And if I don't?" he asked, leaning forward.

Her lips curved up into a smile and she eased closer, whispering in his ear, "Then I'll just have to convince you."

He shivered as her lips brushed his ear, then pulled her to him and kissed her fiercely. She responded in kind, and they didn't resurface for several long, long minutes. They both gasped a little when they finally came up for air, breathing hard.

"Ginny…Ginny, you mean the world to me – I will always protect you – I love you," he breathed, and she smiled.

"My hero," she replied, a hint of sarcasm creeping into her tone, though her smile softened it. "Remember what happened the last time you tried to protect me?"

He groaned and nodded. "But this is different," he argued. "I know that you're supposed to be with me now – I know that I can't just put you somewhere safe until the war is over. I just…I just wanted you to know that I will do everything in my power to keep you safe."

She raised both hands to his head and buried her fingers in his hair, pulling his face down to her so that their foreheads touched. "I know," she whispered. "And I'll do the same for you."

Then she kissed him again, and Harry lost track of time for a very long while. Eventually, however, their kisses became less fervent, and then slowed as their worry and exhaustion began tugging them towards sleep.

They stayed on the sofa, as neither could muster the energy to get up and go upstairs. The fire was warm, comforting, and slightly hypnotizing. Harry stared into it as Ginny fell asleep on his shoulder, the dancing, red-gold flames reminding him of her hair. Soon, his eyes closed too, and he followed Ginny into uneasy dreams full of unseen dangers and flashes in the dark.