Sirius took another deep breath and instantly regretted it as he choked on the exhale, clutching his sore ribs.
"Hey, take it easy," Frank uttered from his right in the small hospital waiting room. "You'll puncture a lung."
"Didn't the healer tell you to lie down while those bones mend?" Alice added sternly from his left.
Sirius did not have the breath to respond yet and merely gave her a look before turning to watch his friend. James sat nearly doubled over in the chair opposite, elbows on his knees as he rubbed his eyes under his glasses. He looked as thought he hadn't slept properly in weeks. He probably hadn't.
"Why don't you get some kip, mate," he finally managed. "We'll send for you the second she wakes. Come on, you look like shit."
"You can say that again," Alice muttered.
James shook his head, clasping his hands together between his knees as he sat hunched over. "I have to be here. I have to." He raised one hand to rub the back of his neck. "I can't believe this is fucking happening."
"James," Alice added quietly. "It's not your fault, you know. There's really nothing you could have done to-"
"This is all my fault," he cut her off angrily. "All of it. Everything that's happened…" he trailed off wearily.
"You didn't hex her, James."
"That's not what I-" He paused to release a frustrated groan. "I made her mad; she wouldn't have got involved in this crap again if I hadn't…" He sighed. "I made her think she had something to prove." He dropped his head between his knees.
"No, you didn't," Sirius spoke up again. "She didn't accept Moody's offer, and she didn't do this to spite you," he added honestly. "She did it because, well, she's Lily. When has she ever been any good at keeping her nose out of other people's business? Let's face it; she was going to get involved whether she found out you messed up her test scores or not."
"He did what?" Alice and Frank interrupted sounding outraged.
"Another time," Sirius said warningly.
The couple exchanged a troubled glance before Alice shook her head in disapproval, slumping back into her chair. Frank watched James with an uneasy stare.
Despite his attempt at reasoning with the man, Sirius did not think James looked any happier as he began cracking his knuckles. Maybe now was the right time to tell him about the baby. If anything was going to bring him cheer him up right now surely it would be the news that he was going to be a father…
"Hey," he began tentatively, not quite sure how he was going to phrase his news "You remember at Halloween when-"
But James was barely listening, too caught up in his worry for Lily.
"What's taking so long?" he yelled suddenly, standing and glaring toward the set of doors opposite them. "It shouldn't take so long. I'm going in there-"
"Sit down," Alice sighed, reaching across and dragging James back to his seat by his robes. "Let them do their job. If she was dead they would have told us by now; she'll be fine… She'll be fine," she added in a quiet voice. Perhaps James did not pick up on her anxious tone but Sirius did. Nor did he miss the way Alice's right hand absently moved to her belly. They shared an uneasy glance. Perhaps now wasn't the best time to inform James of the baby.
"Do you want a coffee or something? Tea? Anything?" Frank added, rising from his seat and fishing for coins in his pocket. "I can't sit here any longer; it's driving me mad."
James shook his head before dropping it again to stare at the floor. Sirius gingerly got to his feet, deciding to give his friend some time alone. "I think we could all do with the caffeine," he said, as Frank offered Alice his hand and began to lead her down the corridor. "We'll check on Kingsley while we're up. Catch you later mate."
As his slowly drifted out of earshot James sat back up in his chair, running his hands through his hair before dropping them limply to his lap. He allowed his head to fall back, making a soft thud as it made contact with the wall, but he did not appear to mind, letting his eyes fall closed with a sigh.
"Mr Potter is it?"
His eyes shot open again instantly, springing from his chair and rushing to meet the Healer as she exited the double doors opposite him.
"Is she alright? Can I see her?" he blurted almost incoherently.
"Yes and yes," the Healer said, smiling. "She's just waking up now. There's some slight scarring where the curse hit-"
"-but in time her hair will cover it, she won't even notice it," the Healer added calmly. "She's a little bruised, but other than that Mum and baby are doing fine."
James, who had been craning his neck over the Healer's shoulder in search for his beloved, snapped back to her instantly. "Baby?"
The healer smiled again and then looked slightly anxious. "You are Miss Evans' partner, yes?"
James had momentarily lost his voice and merely nodded. Was she saying what he thought she was saying?
"I mean…" the Healer appeared slightly flustered. "I do appologise Mr Potter, I just assumed that you would be the father-"
He nodded again and finally found his voice. "I bloody well hope so!"
The healer laughed nervously and so did James, running his hands through his hair again in utter amazement.
Lily was pregnant.
They were having a baby.
He was going to be a father.
"Does – does she know? Does Lily know?"
"Yes," the healer replied with a much more confident smile now. "Yes, our records show she saw a Healer to confirm the pregnancy last week-" she paused, eyeing James curiously, and then awkwardly. "You didn't know, did you?"
James shook his head.
The Healer looked instantly uncomfortable again. "In that case, I presume congratulations are in order Mr Potter." She held out her hand and James shook it eagerly.
"You're welcome Mr Potter. And yes, you may see her now."
Grinning from ear to ear James nodded frantically, pushing past the smiling healer and into the room. Another healer stood by the foot of the bed scribbling something into a file and a third was propping a very groggy Lily up against her pillows. They both smiled at him before exiting the room quietly.
James rounded the bed and approached Lily slowly, settling himself on the end of the mattress. "Hey," he said, pushing her hair off her face.
"James?" she muttered in barely more than a whisper. Her eyes remained closed, one of which was still bruised and swollen. She reached for him blindly.
"I'm here," he replied, clutching her hands in his. "How are you feeling?"
"Yeah," he nodded, feeling a lump in his throat and doing his best to swallow it. "You rest, love." It seemed barely two seconds before her head fell back limply into the pillows. James reached over and kissed her forehead and rested a gentle hand on her stomach – their baby. He sat by her, just watching her breathe, thankful that she was breathing, until a knock on the door called his attention. Sirius waved from the window – he must have been sat there for longer than he thought.
"She's going to be fine," James whispered as he opened the door to his friend. Alice and Frank stood by his side looking slightly anxious. "Just sleeping."
"Nothing serious," James smiled in relief, eager to tell his best friend the good news but knowing he should at least have that particular conversation with Lily first. "She's…fine."
"Look," Sirius began. "I probably should have told you this ages ago but Lily made me swear not to-"
"Oh Sirius," Alice interrupted sounding disappointed. "Don't."
"-But I'm your best mate," he continued, raising a hand to silence her. "And I should have told you."
James shook his head. "What are you on about?" He glanced to Frank and then Alice, who looked more anxious than before.
"Lil's pregnant," Sirius spat out sounding almost breathless. "She was gonna tell you on Halloween but things got messed up and…well there it is. You're having a kid."
James' face dropped as he looked between the three people before him. "You knew?" he said, sounded offended. "All of you knew?"
"I didn't!" Frank announced quickly, reaching out and clutching James' right hand in his own. "Congratulations mate, this is great! Really great!"
James accepted distractedly as Alice dropped her head looking apologetic. "So I guess you know too," she said quietly.
"The healer just told me," James replied shortly.
"Lil said she was going to tell you," Sirius added earnestly. "But it's been ages now. She needs help, mate, but it didn't look like you were ever going to sort things out. I had to tell you."
"You had to tell me?" James muttered angrily, stepping into the waiting area and closing the door behind him. "Why the fuck couldn't you tell me before she got herself into this state? I would have stopped her."
"Do you think she would have listened to you?" Sirius argued defensively. "She wouldn't even tell you she was pregnant."
"Then tell Dumbledore!" James growled. "Tell Moody! They would have never given her any blasted mission if they knew she was fucking pregnant!"
Both Sirius and Alice looked rather sheepish although they both knew Lily would have probably gone against orders anyway and gotten herself involved again somehow. That was just Lily.
Frank was still beaming with congratulations. "Hey relax. Lily's fine and now you're having a kid. Let it go, you've got more important things to think about."
James ignored him.
"Sorry, mate-" Sirius began, but James dropped his hands and pushed roughly past his friend as he tried to reach out to him and marched off down the corridor.
"Just leave him," Alice said quietly, taking hold of Sirius' arm. "Give him time to cool off."
Sirius shook his head but allowed Alice to steer him into Lily's room. She woke abruptly with the noise, looking dazed before finally settling on the threesome by the foot of her bed. "Where – I thought-"
"James just went to get a cup of tea," Alice provided kindly. "How are you feeling?"
Sirius gave her a disapproving look, stepping closer to Lily's side. "James knows about the baby, Lily. He's gone off somewhere – he's not happy."
A sad look crossed Lily's already weary face. "How?"
"The healers told him," Alice stepped in, giving Sirius a firm look. "I think he's just disappointed that no one told him sooner, but he'll be alright."
Lily's face contorted in a mixture of frustration, confusion and probably pain as she ran her hands over her face, making contact with her sore eye.
"Oh it's alright," Alice said, perching close to Lily on her bed. "Don't get yourself in a worry now."
"Yeah," Sirius added. "I'll have a word with him – we'll sort everything out."
Lily nodded feeling utterly exhausted; her mind ached just trying to think about this new problem but she didn't have long to contemplate it as there was a knock at the door and Dumbledore appeared in the room. Alice and Frank scooted out of the way as he approached the bed.
"Lily, how are you feeling?"
"Everyone keeps asking me that," she replied in a croak. "I think the answer's obvious."
He smiled as her visitors shared a quiet chuckle. "Better than I would have expected I see." Sirius reached out to lay a hand over hers on the blankets. "Although a perfect mission would have been one in which you returned completely unharmed, a very well done to you."
"Why?" she asked, sounding miserable. "I messed everything up. I didn't accomplish anything."
"On the contrary," Dumbledore said. "After your attack and Voldemort's short appearance we had sufficient evidence to arrest Kristo Svetkov was arrested along with two other Deatheaters."
"But Voldemort got the mirror."
"I believe you smashed it."
Lily felt awkward even having to explain this to the old headmaster. "Surely he'll just repair it."
He smiled and revealed his free hand, unclenching it before her. "I'm sure he tried; we found no remains in the apartment. But it will never be quite the same if he doesn't have all of it."
Lily leaned forward and had to squint her slightly bleary eyes to make out the tiny shard of glass in the old headmaster's hand.
"We may never know the mirror's purpose," he said thoughtfully, taking Lily's hand and dropping the shard into her palm. "But considering he went to such lengths to obtain it, I expect Voldemort should want it nothing less than perfect."
Lily inspected the piece of mirror closely and allowed a small smile. "Where did you find it?"
"Your left leg, I believe," Dumbledore informed her. "The healers were kind enough to give it to me when it was removed," he added. "But knowing myself all too well I should surely misplace it within a week. Perhaps I may rely on you to keep it out of harms way?"
Lily raised her head to give the old man a warm smile. "I'd be honoured."
Dumbledore nodded approvingly. "Now," he said as he rose from the bed. "I shall leave you to your visitors," he added, glancing over his shoulder. "Ah, here's another one now."
Lily, Alice and Sirius turned their heads to witness the arrival of James in the doorway, a large blue teddy bear tucked under his right arm, a bunch of flowers in one hand and a balloon stating the words 'It's a Boy!' in the other. "Sorry," he said sheepishly, giving Lily a weak smile.
Lily could not help the tears welling in her eyes with the mixture of emotions that took over her in that moment. Dumbledore, Alice and Sirius swiftly exited the room. Though Lily did not miss the look of alarm on the old man's face with the news of her pregnancy. She was thankful he would allow that scolding to wait until another time.
James approached the bed slowly, passing Lily his range of gifts. She smiled at each only briefly before pushing them aside and pulling her love down to her by the front of his robes, wrapping her arms around his neck and sobbing freely. "I don't want to fight anymore," she cried into his robes. "I'm sorry for everything."
"No, no, no," James said, settling himself on the bed so as not to be strangled any more. "I'm sorry. I started this – you should hate me forever but I'm begging that you'll take me back."
She squeezed him tighter as she cried and James assumed that to be a yes. "I'm sorry about your test," he uttered quietly.
"Oh shut up about the test!" Lily cried, pushing him off her. "It was just a stupid test. I'm sorry I didn't listen to you. You were always looking after me and I went and put our baby in danger and-" she stopped herself abruptly realising this was the first time they had discussed the pregnancy.
"Let's call it even," James said softly, brushing a hand down her cheek. "Okay? I love you no matter what…and you," he added, letting his hand trail to her belly.
She nodded, resting her hand over his and glancing at the blue teddy on the bed and then up at the balloon which floated above their heads. "I take it you have your heart set on a boy?"
James released a small laugh before rearranging himself to sit directly next to her on the bed, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and letting her head rest on his. "They didn't have it's a baby."
"Yes, well," Lily sniggered. "That's a given."
"Wishful thinking then."
They fell into contented silence and Lily opened her fist, watching the shard of glass reflecting in the light.
"What is it?" James asked.
"I don't know," Lily replied, closing her fingers tightly around it again. "Something important, I think. We'll probably never know why…"
6 months later…
Lily snorted derisively as she watched her boss, Ray Berkley, chief editor of the Daily Prophet, walk around the desk before slumping into his leather chair. She folded her arms over the top of her pregnant belly, shifting her weight onto one leg irritably. "No I'm not."
The older man waved his wand to pour himself a large brandy and took a deep gulp before looking at her with a weary gaze. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't."
"Hello, pregnant lady. I'm trying to support a child here."
"You can't use that excuse forever," Ray grunted, shaking his head. "It's not fair."
"Quite whining," she snorted. "It's a great excuse. How do you think I got this story anyway? Ministry officials are just dying to be seen kissing babies; helping pregnant women falls into the same category."
Ray gave her a look over the top of the newspaper he now held. "Well you didn't have to break in to his study-"
"It was open!"
"-Steal his documents-"
"I copied one page!"
"-Traumatise his house elves-"
"I trod on its foot – by accident!"
"-Break down the security field around his safe-"
Lily opened her mouth as thought to retaliate but closed it again a moment later. "How else was I supposed to get in?" she muttered under her breath.
Her boss released a loud sigh.
Lily shook her head. "I'm not fired," she said after a moment, reaching across the desk and taking half a sandwich from Ray's plate.
He gave her a dry look.
"What?" she said around a mouthful. "Pregnant lady."
Ray shook his head. "Then surely you'll have no objections with spending three hours on your arse. I want you there tonight," he added tossing her two glittering silver tickets. "Theatre production."
"Oh come on, Ray!" she cried. "A play?"
"Staring Gilderoy Lockheart. Now run along."
"But I'm supposed to be meeting my sister tonight; I haven't seen her in years!" she cried while stuffing the rest of the sandwich into her mouth. Pitiful excuse. She'd been looking for a way out of this meeting with Petunia from the moment she'd arranged it.
"Then surely another day won't make a difference," Ray muttered.
Well, at least it meant she could still spend the night with James. Speaking of which, a knock sounded from behind her and she turned to see him waving through the glass of Ray's office door.
"Come in!" Ray barked, his eyes never leaving the paper in front of him.
"It's for me," Lily muttered, collected her handbag from where she'd dropped it by the desk. "I'm going out for lunch, want anything?"
Ray scoffed. "Another sandwich perhaps?"
"Oh, you don't like this one?" she replied, leaning over and taking his final half.
Ray dropped the paper onto the desk in an exasperated fashion. "Be my guest."
"I'm eating for two here," she reasoned, stuffing the tickets into her bag before looping the straps over her shoulder. "Fine, I'll review this play as long as you let me cover the McLaughlin scandal."
"The new deputy chief? There's no scandal there."
"Not yet there isn't," she replied wickedly as another knock sounded on the glass. "Got to run, we'll finish this later." Ray muttered something under his breath but Lily ignored him as she reached for the door.
"Oh and Lily?"
"Will you ever get around to telling me who he is?"
Ray gave her a knowing look. "The one who turned you against all the-"
Lily merely smiled as she turned the handle, revealing a cheery looking James on the other side and silencing Ray's rant.
"Thought I'd find you in here," James said. "Ready to go?" He leant forward, kissing his wife on the cheek, and catching sight of Ray at the desk. "Afternoon Ray. Hope she's not causing you too much trouble today."
"Afternoon James. Take her out of my sight will you? Feed her for Merlin's sake."
Grinning James unnecessarily took the large handbag bag from Lily's arm but she allowed him to fuss as she turned to give Ray Berkley one last smile of her own. "One day, Ray, you might just figure it out for yourself."