A/N: This starts out at Lily's house the summer after the MWPP era students graduated from Hogwarts. The story ends on the night the first real, cannon Harry Potter book, begins. The Last Laugh was originally written before Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was published. And, as a fanfic, I'm not going for complete accuracy with the real books.
The Last Laugh
Chapter One: The Beginning of True Love
"Sirius!" Lily Evans yelled impatiently throwing floo powder on the fire in her living room. "Sirius Black, I want a word!" Her green eyes flared with impatience, and her fiery red hair flipped violently around her head.
"You bellowed?" Sirius's head appeared in the fire with a boyish grin, his perfect white teeth gleaming eerily in the firelight. His long black hair was covering part of his face and his eyes and Lily had to resist the urge to move it.
"Sirius, have you seen James? I haven't heard from him in the two weeks, since we got out of school," Lily was very distressed, and her lips were compressed with worry. "This isn't like him, Sirius…"
"Oh, yeah, didn't he tell you?" Sirius said, sounding mischievous, one of those certain grins spreading across his tanned face. "He's vacationing in Hawaii with Katie."
"Sirius Black, that is NOT funny," Lily said, flipping her vibrantly red hair over her shoulder and fixing him with one of her famous Looks. "Where is he?"
"I don't know; I don't keep tabs on the guy," Sirius replied earnestly. "Relax; I'm sure he'll show up," He added, after he noticed Lily's worry. In truth, it was very unlike James not to owl or contact anyone for so long, especially not his darling Lily.
Just as a cloud of concern started to form in Sirius' mind they were interrupted by the loudest, most piercing screech Sirius had ever heard—and he'd pissed off a good many owls in his day.
"Lillian!" Lily's younger sister Petunia shouted, her voice changing pitch and intensity mid-way through the word. "I'm telling Mom you're doing it again! When are you going to move out?" She must have been startled by Sirius' head in the fire. Petunia managed to find a good many things about Lily startling but she could never quite get used to the whole fireplace transportation thing.
"Do shut up," Lily said impatiently waving her away. "It's just my sister," Lily explained to Sirius.
"I am NOT your sister," Petunia screeched, her eyes flashing dangerously. The veins in her thin neck seemed to be bulging. "I want nothing to do with you are YOUR kind," And with that she stomped out of the room.
"She's just a muggle," Lily said coolly turning back to Sirius. It was obvious to Sirius she was trying not to care about her sister but he didn't miss the deepened lines of worry about her brow.
"You'd think we were worms the way she talks about us," Sirius said, clearly upset. "'You and YOUR kind'" He mimicked, making a face.
Lily did not at all want to discuss her sister and their relationship problems so she decided to change the subject. "So, what have you been up to?" Lily asked, sighing. James being MIA was still bothering her a great deal, but it was clear Sirius did not have the answers she was hoping for.
"Oh, not much," Sirius said with a shrug. "I got a job though," He continued, a devilish lips forming on his lips. Lily looked at him curiously, ignoring the doorbell. "It's a real girl magnet-" He was cut short, however, when another screech came from the hallway.
"Lily! Come remove...THIS... from our doorway!"
"Hold on, Sirius, must be an owl, she hates those," Lily sighed as she bounced out of the room and into the hallway. She felt hope rising in her chest. James might have finally sent her an owl! Just as she was about to turn the corner, her heart racing with anticipation, she came face to face with the James Potter--a very tired looked James Potter, but it was him. His eyes sparkled and danced when he saw Lily, his whole face seemed to come alive. Even his messy black hair seemed to glow.
Lily stopped dead. Her whole body seemed to go stiff with excitement. The blood was pumping through her veins, but the shock seemed to be numbing her senses. It took at least a couple of seconds before she could start moving again or even think anything.
"James," she breathed. And all at once she ran to him and threw her arms around him. His broomstick clattered on the floor beside him and his silvery invisibility cloak slid to the floor and he put his arms around her. His muscles tightened into a bone-crushing grip as he pulled her to his rapidly rising and falling chest. She couldn't know how long they stood there, just holding on to each other but eventually the urge to see his face caused her to pull slightly away.
She looked into his eyes, those deep brown eyes. She was trying to read his expression, trying to figure out why he was so disheveled looking. There was something in those eyes, something past the light that always shone when he looked at her. There was a sadness there that hadn't been there before…
James moved closer to her again, his head bending ever so slightly. She could smell the familiar fresh clean smell mixed with a new smell, one of outdoors. Her eyes shut and she could feel his breath, feel him getting closer--and then, the world came crashing down on top of her as a loud screech was heard from the living room immediately followed by howls of laughter.
Lily and James had pulled apart immediately. Lily started to laugh and James gave her a curious look. "Sirius," She said in a simple explanation. James allowed Lily to lead him to the living room, his hand holding firmly to hers.
Lily's younger sister Petunia was lying on the floor clutching at her stomach and… laughing? Lily quickly realized what had happened and muttered the counter-jinx for the tickling spell.
"YOU!" Petunia yelled, pointing a bony, well-manicured finger at Lily. "The sooner you get out the better…" She threw a nasty glance at James and her face turned into a grimace. "You FREAK!" She added, her face coloring in anger. Quickly she turned and exited the room.
"Sirius Black," Lily said sharply, rounding on him. "WHAT, was that for? I admit I don't like her very much but that was low. She was completely defenseless."
"Oh, come on, Lily, it was funny," Sirius protested, winking at James. James couldn't help but grin, though Sirius noticed it didn't really transfer to his eyes.
"You two," Lily said wearily, shaking her head and sitting down next to the fireplace. "So Sirius, what's this job of yours?"
"Sirius Black is holding down a job!" James exclaimed, with an air of amusement. "This is going to be good," He muttered to Lily, taking a seat with her. His arm snaked around her waist and pulled her close.
"Yes, and apparently it attracts the girls," Lily explained to James.
"Well," Sirius said, a touch of drama in his voice. "I have become a model." The room became properly silent after such a ridiculous pronouncement. Lily felt paralyzed by shock for a second, like she had just done upon seeing James in the hallway. Then James burst out laughing and Lily quickly followed suit.
"You've got to be kidding," James said, calming himself.
"Nope! I find it rather fun, too," Sirius said, looking down at their skeptical faces. "I did a couple of ads for toothpaste and next I am going to do some ads for dragon-hide leather boots. Look for me in Witch Weekly," He flashed a toothy grin. Lily gave James a look and then collapsed in laughter on his shoulder.
"That sounds like you," She said, trying to sober up.
"Of course it sounds like me, it is me," Sirius said, smiling broadly. "What about Prongs, when are you off for training?" James, being very smart, and much more motivated than Sirius, had been recruited by the Aurors.
"I'm not sure," He said slowly. "I didn't look at the pack of information yet." The sparkle in his eyes was definitely gone and he no longer looked eighteen. He looked older and sad.
"Why not?" Lily asked scooting—if possible--closer to him. His grave look concerned her, more than she realized. By the time he started to speak her heart was already beating much faster than its normal rate. James was taking several steadying breaths as if what he was about to say was going to be hard to tell.
Just as he seemed to have decided to speak, a new head followed by a body strode out of the fireplace startling them all—but Sirius mostly.
"James, it can't be," Remus Lupin said stepping out of the fire and immediately embracing him. "I'm so sorry." Remus' brown eyes were sad and full of concern as he brushed impatiently at his long brown hair.
"What's going on?" Lily asked shrilly, her emotions going crazy. She glanced at Sirius but he seemed just as lost as she was.
"They don't know?" Remus asked James with some surprise. James simply shook his head. Before Remus had time to react they were interrupted.
"LILY! KILL IT! KILL IT QUICK!" Everyone turned to look at the door leading into the kitchen. On the other side, they could hear Petunia banging around and screeching. With a reluctance, Lily tore herself away from James and went to the door.
Lily opened the door and found Petunia standing on a chair in the kitchen howling about a rat. Suddenly a rat scurried in between Lily's legs and into the living room. Lily laughed and shut the door and locked it. When she turned around Peter Pettigrew was walking over to James looking very serious.
"I just heard, are you all right?" Peter asked, his watery eyes even watery than normal. James simply nodded.
"James, what is going on, you're scaring me," Lily said coming over to sit next to him by the fire. Only she could have seen the faint lines at the corners of his mouth which signified worry.
"Don't you get the paper around here?" Peter demanded, harshly.
"No, the owls bother Petunia," Lily said shortly, annoyed at the intrusion. She wanted James to open up to her.
Lily glanced at the fire hoping to read something in Sirius' expression but he had disappeared. Suddenly, the fire blazed green again and Sirius strode right out of it. Without even pausing to brush the ash from his robes he turned to James.
"James, I don't have a paper, now what is going on?" He asked, looking very uncharacteristically serious and staring right into James' eyes.
"My parents, they're dead," James said evenly and monotonously, staring blankly at the opposite wall.
The effect was dead silence. What could one say? A thousand thoughts poured through Lily's head but each one was more meaningless than the next. She wanted to ask questions but at the same time she wanted to cry.
Wordlessly, she wrapped her arms tightly around his body, hoping to convey all her feelings with this gesture. He barely responded. His gaze was still distant, though his eyes were wet. He lifted his arm and rested it lightly around her, his heart not really in the embrace.
Remus and Peter had seated themselves in armchairs and were staring grimly into the fire. Sirius just looked...broken. He slowly dropped to his knees, looking as if he had just been punched in the stomach.
Lily took one look at Sirius and burst into tears.
The Potters were like Sirius' parents. He spent every summer with them. Sirius' father had died a few months before he was born and his mother died in child birth. Sirius' had never known any parents but the Potters. During his early years he had spent some time with an Aunt but eventually he had wound up in an orphanage. It was the Potters who took him in and showed him what a real family was like.
James gently kissed the top of Lily's hair and whispered a soft "Shh…" Lily felt silly crying over James' parents with him telling her to stop. But she was overwhelmed with emotion for both James and Sirius. They had lost so much in an instant.
A new thought suddenly occurred to Lily and it was so frightening that her muscles tensed and her heart started to beat faster. Could Voldemort have murdered the Potters? Was he looking for James? It was true that the Death Eaters had rarely taken responsibility for the death of wizards as of yet, but there was still the possibility.
"James!" Lily choked, as she pulled away from him, her eyes desperate. "It's not... it wasn't... you-know-who?" The tension in the room seemed to visibly thicken as all eyes snapped to James, intent on his answer. James bowed his head and shook his head no.
For some reason Lily couldn't explain the rush of relief that consumed her. She wanted to hug and kiss James fiercely but that wasn't what he needed at the moment. She slipped her hand into his and gave it a reassuring squeeze. He raised his sad eyes to meet hers and she felt a stab of pain at her heart. There was pain in those eyes—pain beyond his years.
"How?" Sirius croaked, his voice barely usable. Lily was alarmed to see the lines in Sirius' face make such deep creases. Sirius was always able to ease the tension. He was an incurable optimist always making jokes. It wasn't fair that he was experiencing such unbelievable sadness.
James stretched out next to Sirius without looking at him. The two had shared so much and they had many of the same memories of the Potters. "Lethifold attack," He said, softly. Sirius stopped staring at the fire to turn and look at him in disbelief.
James nodded and drew a shaky breath. "Dad was going to go on business to the Bahamas and he invited us along," James started to explain. His voice took on a hollow/rehearsed tone. "He had to meet with some goblins. We were going to stay a few extra days, go snorkeling and relax a bit, that's all…" He paused to take a deep breath, as his voice started to break. "We were sleeping four nights ago. I was in the same room as my parents, in the other bed, the one farthest from the door… It got Mom first, and then moved on to Dad. He must have woken up because he started to struggle and he knocked over the lamp. By the time I woke up and turned on the light it was too late. They were just…gone…"
Sirius hid his face in his hands and James looked close to breaking. Lily knew that she would have to be the one to do something to be strong before they all lost it. She wasn't used to being the strong one. She had always leaned on James before. But now she could see that he needed her and she couldn't fail him.
"James, I'm here," Lily whispered. Hot tears coming to his eyes, he pulled her painfully close. She just held on to him, not ever wanting to let go.
After a few minutes James regained control of his emotions and relaxed his grip on Lily, though he still didn't let go. She was the most important thing in the world to him right now.
James caught Sirius' eye and felt a new pang in his chest. James noticed for the first time how sad and bad looking Sirius was. He knew how Sirius felt. For all intents and purposes he was James' brother! But feeling sad wouldn't bring the Potters back.
James knew he had to do something. He had to snap out of it for all their sakes. Life goes on and they were just going to have to accept that. "Hey!" James exclaimed with so much liveliness that everyone Looked at him and Lily pulled away from him, looking startled.
James wiped his eyes on the back of sleeve and grinned. Lily stared at him as if he were laying eggs. How could he suddenly change his mood? "Oh, come on you guys!" James exclaimed, suddenly getting up and surveying all the depressing faces. "This is ridiculous! You are all sitting here crying over my parents." Everyone continued to stare. Sirius thought he must have lost it. "Come on, no more parents, party at my house!" Reluctantly, Lily returned the goofy grin James had plastered across his face.
"James..." Sirius began, slowly, his voice a little unsteady.
"Come on Sirius. You can't tell me you are going to refuse a party for the first time in your life. A party is just what you need," James continued, spreading his arms wide to indicate an invitation. Sirius smiled sadly, despite himself. James was just trying too hard.
"Maybe we should party somewhere else, perhaps we should just go to Hogsmeade and have something to eat," Remus said, tentatively. James' house might hold too many memories, for all of them. And besides, they needed time to come to terms with their loss. It wasn't normal to just move on so suddenly.
"Nah! Come on Moony. We can have a HUGE party. No parents to tell us no! Are we eighteen, or are we eighteen?" James looked at each one of them, and was met with equally forlorn faces, but his eyes were sparkling and his smile was real.
"Have you been drinking your Dad's stash of Ogden's Old Fire whiskey?" Sirius asked. He wasn't actually trying to make a joke. He thought he might be guessing the truth. Peter sniggered.
"Of course not!" James exclaimed, but he started to stagger around the room. He couldn't conceal a grin when he said: "Everything's spinning…Well, maybe I had a little..." James smiled and stood up straight. Peter started to laugh out loud and the tension broke. "Chill out OK? I'm fine; I've had no Fire whiskey."
"James," Lily said, concernedly. She reached out a hand to him and his expression softened. He took her hand and pulled her to his feet and close to his body.
"I know the situation is sad, but Mum and Dad wouldn't want us to change our lives because of it," James said, his tone serious. He stared right into Lily's bright green eyes. "We will get through this and we're going to start right now." He gently reached up and tucked a rogue strand of red hair behind her ear. She smiled faintly.
"Lily…" He whispered, looking more deeply into her eyes. His gaze was disarming and she felt a chill go down her back. "Move in with me?"
Sirius' eyebrows shot up and disappeared underneath his bangs. He turned to Remus and Peter and they all hid their grins. The question was dropped like a bomb from seemingly nowhere.
"James…this is big," Lily replied, her heart racing. She was only eighteen but she loved James. Crazier things had happened before.
"I know," He replied, his tone confident.
"James—" She started to protest but he stopped her with a light "Shhh."
"A few minutes ago, I thought I would never be happy again," James said, speaking directly to Lily. His every syllable seemed to pulse within every fiber of her being. "I realize now that life is precious and anything could happen at any moment. I've always known this but I suddenly realize what is important to me. I don't want to lose you. I want to spend every moment with you while I still have them." Somehow, the words didn't come out sounding as silly as they did later. Lily was caught up, rather like in a romantic novel. Sirius, Remus, and Peter all shivered with a brief sense of foreboding, even though they couldn't have known James' moments were already running out.
"I…I don't know what to say," Lily stammered, truthfully.
"You don't have to say anything," James said, his voice barely a whisper. He started to gently kiss her but she leaned into him and kissed him for fervently. Just as the room was completing dissolving, just as life slipped away, the pain of loss seemed to dissipate, Sirius cleared his throat—loudly--and Remus and Peter sniggered.
Lily and James broke apart embarrassed, Lily's cheeks were slightly pink, and James was grinning.
"How about we head to Hogsmeade and celebrate Lily moving to Godric's Hollow?" Sirius asked, the usual sparkle back in his eye.
Lily looked at James a little uncertainly, but his gaze was confident and she knew she didn't have the will to say no. "All right…" She agreed.
James' face broke into a smile and he wrapped her in a hug. With a laugh, he turned to the rest of them. "Let's go," He said, turning toward the entrance where he had left his broomstick.
Surrounded by his friends, James knew that he would live on. With Lily's help he was able to let go of his survivor's guilt and with the help of all his friends he was able to laugh.
A/N: Now that I am finished with the sequel to this story, Awakening—well, except for the final edit of the last chapter—I started to take another look at this story. It was written a long time ago and it is very obvious. My writing abilities at the time were very limited and really haven't improved that much. However, they are better. And, now that I have written the sequel I have decided to start re-writing this story. Not only can I embellish it a little here and there, I can improve the general quality of the writing. So, every time I re-write a new chapter I'll leave a new author's note. But, just note that if you are reading this for the first time, you might be reading some updated chapters and some non-updated chapters. It won't make a difference plot-wise, just in quality.