Disclaimer: All characters and settings borrowed from the Harry Potter series belong to JK Rowling. I just play with her ideas.
I Solemnly Swear can be read as a sort-of-sequel to Mischief Managed, if you so choose. However, you will also be able to read it alone. If you do have any questions, of if something doesn't make sense in the course of the story, feel free to ask. I hope you enjoy!
1. In Which Lily Gets The Best Of James (Again)
The cottage was small and comfortable-looking, sitting in what could only be described as a particularly picturesque slice of English countryside. It bore the distinctive feel of small-village living, and was quite clearly a much-loved family home.
In fact, it was precisely the sort of place James Potter would have liked to live – but for the fact that it was currently in a rather advanced state of destruction, literally crumbling under the weight of some particularly heavy offensive spells.
Sirius Black quirked an eyebrow, eyes glittering with irony. "A fine way to be spending Christmas, this," he murmured to his best friend as he hurried past, herding the bewildered Muggle family in his wake. James grunted in response.
The Christmas tree was on fire.
The flames had wound their way up the tree and were licking at the ornamental angel perched on top, now. Thick black smoke choked out through the chimney, but even this appeared to be under attack, because a sudden gust of suspiciously strong wind sent the thick black clouds tumbling back into the homey lounge room. The small party of rescuers still remaining covered their mouths, coughing, and all but three vanished with a small pop, some tugging the dazed Muggles behind them.
James Potter couldn't have put it any better himself: A fine way to be spending Christmas.
It seemed an age ago that they had all been crowded around his dining table, toasting to happiness, friendship, love and hope. Realistically, it was probably only a few hours.
With a swift crack, Sirius disappeared too, his arm around the last of the evacuees. James felt his girlfriend stiffen beside him at the sound, and then relax with relief. There was a soft whoosh as the lounge caught alight, but that didn't matter now. They were out: they were all safe.
There would be no tragic deaths for the Muggle media to report, tonight.
Sirius' timing had always been impeccable, and now proved no different as the wall collapsed in a tumble of bricks and cement, right where his friend had been standing.
James grabbed his girlfriend's arm, dragging her roughly down beside him to shelter from the debris behind the quaint little bar counter. Her green eyes were a wide, flickering reflection of the burning tree behind him.
James gripped her shoulders, holding her gaze seriously.
"Lily, the first opportunity you get to stand, I want you to Apparate. I need to know you're safe."
The jeweler's box weighed at his pocket, and James thought regretfully of the plans he had for her, for them. He couldn't afford to be stupid, not if he wanted to see those plans through – and more than anything in the world, James intended to do just that, with all of his heart.
She frowned now, wrenching her shoulders free of him. "James Potter, you're not staying to fight them. I won't let you."
Lily Evans' stubborn streak was legendary, and had been since the age of eleven, when she'd infamously body-bound James and Sirius to prevent them from sneaking out of the Gryffindor common room after dark.
But if Lily was known for her stubborn streak, James was known for his persistence, and there was a wealth of precedent to suggest who would win their battle of wills. James gritted his teeth.
"I'm not arguing about this!" he responded hotly. "Whoever is responsible for this sick display of Christmas spirit deserves what's coming to him!"
He eyed the bottles of alcohol thoughtfully, but the possibility of his getting away with cracking her over the head with one was very slim, and besides, then he'd have to Apparate her out himself, which means he was forced to leave, too. So, stunning was also not an option.
Lily frowned, crossing her arms. "I'm not leaving."
"Yes, you are."
There was an almighty crack, but this time, it wasn't the result of an Apparation. Lily and James scrambled to safety, wild eyed, as the great chimney crumbled before their eyes, smashing into the bar. They were pressed against the far wall now, a thin barrier of rubble between them and the rapidly spreading fire. Without particularly thinking, his hand grasped hers' for comfort, and Lily was obviously about to capitalize on his absentmindedness and side-along-side Apparate away with him when a figure emerged through the smoke, from the hole where the chimney had been.
It was all James could do to keep his grip on his wand with one hand and Lily's with the other, and not to fling them both aside and throw himself at Severus Snape.
For his part, Lily's childhood playmate looked surprised.
"What are you doing here?" he hissed, sounding strangled, his eyes, as always, for Lily only.
Lily opened and closed her mouth in shock. James, on the other hand, could not help but laugh. His hand grasped Lily's so tightly she was sure she could feel the bones of her fingers straining under great pressure.
"Snape the Martyr, is it, now?" James challenged him, mockingly.
Snape lowered his wand. "I don't want to kill you, Potter," he threatened quietly.
Lily's eyes flashed between the two men. James hoped she knew him well enough to understand that even he wouldn't strike his greatest enemy down in cold-blood.
"Severus is right, James. We're going, now, whether you like it or not."
She spoke with her usual, stubborn conviction, and James had barely a moment to roll his eyes before she turned on the spot, dragging the him with her. A second before they vanished, James saw Snape throw his wand aside angrily.
"And you think you're in love with him!" Severus Snape hissed, appalled.
Lily shook her arm from his grip, furious. Snape quailed under that look, desperate and bitter as he recognized a passion that she'd never possess for him.
"I don't think, Sev. I am. You're too late. Now leave me be, I have to study for the exams."
Snape stepped back reluctantly, allowing her to pass. He caught her intoxicating scent from the toss of her hair, the sweet perfume lingering in his thoughts, keeping company with the secret kiss he so wanted to bestow upon her – but he knew, now, that he'd never have the courage.
She paused, turning as she heard her name on his lips.
"It's a mistake," Snape croaked harshly. "It's a mistake, and you know it, and you know what, Lily Evans? When everything fails, I won't be around to catch you."
What a lie. Snape's eyes darted downwards, unable to meet her fury. To cause her pain – to make her ache as much as he was aching now, to have some sort of common ground – that was acceptable, somehow. But anger? She'd never forgive him, he knew that with a sinking sort of horror:
What had he done?
It was a mistake: everything was a mistake. How had this happened? They were scarce months from graduating – just a few more months, and she'd never have seen Potter again, and none of this nonsense would have occurred, and he would have had her all to himself –
Fate didn't always play kindly, Snape concluded bitterly, turning his heel and sweeping from the library without so much as a backward glance. One day, things would be different.
The Hog's Head was, compared to the burning building, wide and spacious and airy (although Lily knew this was, in actual fact, rather contrary to the truth). The filthy, cobble-stone floor was blackened with age and use, the wooden bar had developed a grease-slick sort of sheen and the windows were so grimy that Lily wondered briefly why they had even bothered with the patchy, moth-eaten black-out curtains.
The rough wooden tables and their rickety chairs were stacked against one wall, presumably to make space for cleaning, although it was very much doubtful whether this had ever been the case.
Body stiff with surprise, James glared down at her with half-hearted frustration; she refused to quake, clearly determined in her knowledge she'd done the right thing. James sighed, the corner of his mouth twitching with affection, ruefully surrendering.
"And about bloody time, too, I should think," Sirius interrupted their silence exchange to scold them both. James found himself being steered into a chair.
The tavern was empty, now, save for a collection of witches and wizards, mainly comprising of James and Lily's dinner guests, huddled around the fire with Dumbledore, his brother and McGonagall.
"Left it just long enough to give me a thorough fright, naturally," Sirius continued, gesturing wildly, his eyes ablaze with frustration. "Prongs, you knew I wouldn't be able to Apparate back to help you, and Merlin!"
James shrugged hopelessly, unable to offer Sirius a rational explanation. His best friend was clearly determined to make a scene, and for once James couldn't be bothered to stop him.
Lily knelt beside him. "It was Snape," she told Sirius quietly. "He came through the smoke at us, and it was all I could do to stop James attacking him and…" she shrugged apologetically, her soot-streaked face tender.
In a rush of frustration, James gritted his teeth. "You should have let me fight him," he muttered, turning away from her. It was easier to be angry when he didn't have to meet her eyes.
"Well forgive me for saving your life, my love," she muttered, raising a hand to brush his cheek. Her fingers came away sooty and she laughed suddenly; James couldn't help but feel his anger melt away again, disappearing as quickly as it had risen. He raised a hand to her own blackened cheek, grinning.
"You're a mess."
He had a hankerchief somewhere; James turned out his pockets absent-mindedly. Something fell to the floor with a soft thump. Funny, he hadn't been carrying anything –
In that instant, James stiffened and Sirius, who knew exactly what the little velvet box was, darted forward.
But Lily was faster; she plucked the little green box from the grimy floorboards, eyeing it inquisitively.
James sighed. "Lily, please –"
She flashed him a puzzled look, and James held his breath, hand beckoning hopefully - but it was too late, and Lily had already flicked the lid of the box upward. Her head jerked up at once in surprise, and she met James' resigned expression searchingly.
Sirius hid his face in his hands.
"James, what is this?"
Even though all three of them knew, so very well, that Lily knew exactly what that box and its contents happened to mean, no-one seemed ready to volunteer any answers; in fact, out of the corner of his eye James could see Sirius was backing away, very slowly. The talk had stalled at the fireside, now, and the speakers, too, turned their attention to the little tableau unfolding before them.
James ran a hand through his sooty hair, all thoughts of Muggles and wizards-gone-bad and fires and attacking Severus Snape vanishing from his mind as he shook his head ruefully.
"You just had to open it, didn't you?" he murmured, sighing. He accepted now what seemed inevitable. Lily had always, often quite innocently, been a foil to his plans, and this occasion was proving to be no different. "No time like the present though, I suppose, eh Padfoot?"
Sirius started to laugh quietly, shoulders shaking as he shrugged hopelessly. Remus and Peter moved forward to join him, expressions carefully blank. "Probably not, Prongs."
James smiled then, and nodded. His eyes drifted about the room, taking in the grimy bar, the shabby furniture, the audience. Lily. Her eyes shone brightly, the hand clasping the little velvet box shaking unconsciously. Grasping her fingers gently, he slid it from her hold.
Then, much to almost everyone's surprise, he dropped to one knee.
"What are you crying about?"
The window was cold against Lily Evans' forehead. Rain smattered down the reverse side of the glass, and the compartment rocked with the steady rhythm the train had picked up as it hurtled, full speed, toward her mysterious new school.
A boy had broken away from the group, settling himself across from her, and he peered at her, curiously. Certainly, it was obvious that he thought her tears were absurd. For a moment, Lily had taken him for Severus, but now… though his hair was black, it was infinitely untidier, and he sported a pair of round-rimmed black glasses.
"Why do you care?" she challenged in reply.
The boy rolled his eyes. "Because it's not normal to be crying. We're off to Hogwarts, for Merlin's sake!"
Lily sniffed. "I'm not normal," she responded sulkily. "None of us are. If we were, we wouldn't be going in the first place! Besides, I can cry if I like."
The boy appraised her more closely, now, his eyes bright with interest.
"So you're a Muggle-born, then?"
Lily nodded, turning back to the window and hiding her face behind her hair. "Just leave me alone, please."
The boy frowned. "What if I don't want to?"
But Lily offered no further response. Sometimes, her mother had taught her, silence was the best way to treat persistent people. Certainly, talk only encouraged them.
The boy eventually tired of her, and moved away, out of her line of vision, returning, instead, to the other boys. Moments later, she heard a shout of laughter.
Lily closed her eyes, savouring the warm, wet trickle on her cheeks. At least that feeling wasn't so unfamiliar.
The room had plunged rather abruptly into exactly the awkward sort of silence that James had been most anxious to avoid. It was, to be precise, the singular reason why he'd wanted to do this in private.
"I was going to wait, but…" James gestured to the open box in her hands, laughter in his eyes. She blinked back, face unreadable but for the small quiver at the corner of her lips.
"You always did get the best of me, Lily. And I know that's not much, but it's all I have to offer anyway, so… Do - Would you like to… would you want to… uh - marry me?"
Lily gazed down at him, unseeingly, and it seemed clear to James that she was having some sort of revelation. This seemed fair; after all, he rather thought he was having one himself. He'd known this was coming, the moment that little box had fallen from his pocket. They'd only just escaped a vicious attack with their lives, and he understood in retrospect that while Snape probably wouldn't have killed them if he was honest enough to say so, surely there had been others as well, just waiting beyond that curtain of smoke, wands poised. He'd always known – well, it seemed like always, anyway – that for him, she was It, but he'd never been more certain of that than in those scarce few minutes they'd spent huddled together in the smoky family home. Strangely, it didn't scare him at all.
He knew they were so young, probably too young, for him to be asking her yet - and yet here they were, and beyond any sort of trepidation James felt, there was one thing he was certain of: spending the rest of his life with this girl felt right.
And Merlin's beard, it looked like she was actually considering him, even though he'd managed to mess up the proposal. James knew (and knew she knew) with resignation that he couldn't do romantic if he tried, but strangely this seemed all right, that he was an eternally bumbling fool for her… and just maybe she was just a bit of a fool for him too, sometimes. James couldn't help but smile, then. If that were the case, and they were both fools, then so be it. After all, the world always needed more love in it, no matter how impulsive and stupid it was.
Lily blinked again, and surrendered to the quivering smile that threatened to engulf her face.
"Always get the best of you, eh?" she echoed vaguely. James rose to his feet uncertainly, gripping the poor little box slightly tighter than he needed to. He didn't even notice he was holding his breath.
"Yes, of course, I'd love to James. How could my answer be anything dif-?"
The little box went flying in James' haste to pick her up, spinning her around and around as he kissed her, laughing.
He'd been pretty certain of her answer – of course he had been, because it was a rare thing for James to ask a question without already knowing the answer – but to hear her affirm her love for him, well, that was something to celebrate.
Sirius caught the airborne box with the precision of a former Quidditch great, exchanging a glance with Remus, who smiled.
"Merry Christmas," he offered weakly.
Peter slipped between them, slinging an arm over each of their shoulders, his round, boyish face split with an addictive grin. It seemed that everyone had caught the young couple's infectious happiness. Remus wished only that they could bottle the emotion, because such joy was too scarce, these days. He committed the moment, their smiles, and the gentle welling of satisfaction he felt inside himself, to memory. Somehow, he figured he'd need it later.
"Well, lads," Peter murmured dryly. "Hands up who saw that one coming today?"
Remus chuckled. "Perhaps under different circumstances, Wormy, but no, I think-"
Fighting a grin, James finished kissing Lily and glanced up. The room suddenly seemed very bright, and with all eyes fixed on him James couldn't help but feel slightly dazed. Scanning his friends' faces, he met Peter's eye and couldn't help but feel slightly overwhelmed by his infectious grin.
Remus looked thoughtful, and Sirius …
Sirius lifted his eyebrows, grinning and ducking his head, as though to remind James of-
"James – James, are you all right?"
James glanced back to Lily, feeling slightly overwhelmed and … empty handed. Oh hell.
"Where's the bloody box?" he asked, half laughing, half anxious, as he gazed about the floor. "I think I dropped it."
He half expected Lily to slip out of his embrace now, for her to throw up her hands and pronounce herself rid of his hopelessness before it was too late. Instead, he felt her draw closer, her body shaking with laughter. James tightened his hold, momentarily giddy with delight. Characteristically, he'd messed up once again, but this didn't seem to matter, now.
Sirius returned the box with a knowing smile, and Lily giggled hopelessly. She appeared quite giddy herself, as though only his arm around her was holding her upright; and James supposed that after all the spinning, perhaps this was fair enough.
James plucked the ring from its pillow, savouring the smoothness of the metal. Eyes fixed on her face and grinning like a moron, he gently slid it onto his new fiancé's hand.
Everyone turned, startled, to find Dumbledore applauding. Peter grinned, joining in.
"Three cheers for Lily and James!" he cried.
"It's fairly hopeless, Prongs."
Sirius rubbed a hand over James' back in commiseration as his friend slumped back down onto the grass, the decisive whip of Lily Evans' hair as she had turned away from him still haunting his mind's eye.
"Either she likes you or she doesn't, and I think Evans has made it pretty clear which way her affections fall, don't you think?"
Sirius had a good mind to go and tell Lily Evans exactly what she'd just done, except for the unfortunate truth he conscientiously neglected to remind James of: she simply didn't seem to care, for all that James insisted on persisting, based on the theory that she secretly did.
"She doesn't understand," James murmured, fists clenched in frustration.
He wasn't as bad as Snivellus – James knew that to be a fact, with conviction, no matter what else she thought of him.
Remus settled next to him on the grass. The grounds were slowly clearing of students, now, but the Marauders had remained where they were, huddled beneath their favourite tree by the lake.
"James, if it's meant to be, it's meant to be. She'll come around, one way or another. Just – maybe be a little more patient and understanding?"
Sirius scoffed. "Moony you sap, you have to be joking. Prongs, I don't even know why you bother listening to this-"
"And it's like I always said, Prongs-"
James accepted a mug of butterbeer from Sirius with a grateful smile. Apparently, proposing in a pub had its upsides. It was as though the engagement party had come to them, all packaged up and tied nicely with a ribbon, with absolutely zero effort on his part, which was only a bonus in his eyes.
Lily had vanished some minutes ago to find Emmeline, and as soon as she had disappeared from the immediate vicinity, James found himself swamped by friends.
He grinned, ruffling Sirius' hair. "Just like you always said," he agreed affectionately, adding as an afterthought – "Paddy, my good friend – you know how you always said…"
Sirius slapped him on the back, making him cough. His best mate's eyes glittered with pleasure.
"Of course I'll be best man, Prongs. You didn't even need to ask! So long as you don't want Moony, that is?"
Remus met James' eyes, startled, and shook his head awkwardly. Of course he'd have accepted if asked, but both James and Remus knew very well that Sirius had had the job from the moment Lily had kissed James. It was almost a rejection, to reaffirm that he wanted Sirius, now, and with abruptly sinking spirits, James suddenly wanted nothing more than to kick Sirius for putting him in such a position.
"It was always going to be you, Sirius. Step up and take responsibility for once in your mangy life," Peter joked uncomfortably.
The four friends studiously avoided each other's gazes for a moment. The strangest thing of all, James marveled, was that even though he was experiencing the strange need to punch something …. Lily had said yes. Unable to hold it in any longer, James' face broke once more into a broad grin of delight.
"I'm getting married!" he crowed, raising his mug. "To Lily Evans!"
The crowd, hearing his exclamation, set up a rumbling cheer, and in that moment Lily chose to catch his eye, blushing a lovely deep red with pleasure.
Sirius joined in the cheer, performing his signature wolf whistle.
"Who would have thought?" he yelled back, full of mirth, raising a knowing laugh.
Because really, if someone had told Sirius at fourteen that in four short years his friend would be engaged to the girl of his dreams, Sirius would have frog-marched them to Madam Pomfrey himself.
It was quite remarkable, he reflected, how quickly things could change…
"I just don't understand this!" Lily growled with a quiet, desperate frustration. "I can do everything else, but this essay – I just can't concentrate – argh!"
Remus and Emmeline glanced up from their seats beside her.
Their customary study table, in the quietest corner of the library, was strewn with books and parchment. Most notably, however, was the gradual amassing of crumbled paper settling in the centre of the table. Lily had always been a perfectionist, but this was becoming ridiculous.
"Perhaps you should talk to James?" Remus suggested cautiously, gesturing toward the Transfiguration textbook. "He's the best in the school, and there's no argument, there."
Lily gritted her teeth, tossing her hair out of her eyes. "I will not be asking anything of Potter, Remus. I don't need him, so don't even bother-"
Emmeline ducked her head, avoiding the inevitable argument. She had, she remembered hastily, a few books to return to the shelves…
"Lily, if you'd only-"
Lily's eyes flashed now. "I have a year 'til NEWTs, Remus, and Merlin help me if I exhaust every other resource in this school, James Potter is the last person I'll ask for help, for anything."
"He's not as bad as you think, Lily. People rarely are." Remus smiled swiftly then. If she wouldn't ask, then perhaps he could ask on her behalf. "And what about me? Will you accept help from me, Lily?"
Lily's impassioned gaze flickered with surprise. "But of course, Remus! I'll always ask you, first."
"I would offer my congratulations," Dumbledore murmured quietly in James' ear. James startled, turning away from his circle of friends casually as another broad grin threatened to erupt across his face; Dumbledore's eyes twinkled with mild amusement. "However, I believe that would require some semblance of surprise on my part which, alas, I can't seem to muster."
"Well I'm glad someone was feeling confident," James responded weakly, shaking his head.
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows with a knowing smile. "Do you see any honest surprise in their faces, James? I think not."
Then suddenly, with no more than a jerk of his head toward the roaring fire, Dumbledore turned and walked away. James raised his own eyebrows, shrugging. Suddenly, something caught his eye; Remus, standing alone by the mantel. James checked his watch absently; it wasn't anywhere near the full moon, just as he'd thought…. And yet something clearly wasn't right. James frowned, a thought suddenly occurring to him –
"A long expected engagement," Dumbledore murmured quietly in Remus' ear. The young man jumped, surprised; so far as he had been aware, he had stood alone by the fire for quite some time, staring into its tumbling depths.
Remus smiled tenderly. "Yes – yes it has been," he agreed quietly, glancing up to meet Dumbledore's sparkling eyes.
His old Headmaster's look said it all: don't worry – your friends will not forget you.
Remus nodded curtly in agreement. He was being silly, he knew, but all the same, he couldn't shake the inexplicable feeling of being left behind.
James and Lily were re-emerging from Aberforth's back room sooner than he expected; understandably, they'd appeared anxious for some time to themselves...
Remus and Dumbledore watched with calm interest as Lily gave James' hand a resolute squeeze before she turned and made her way towards the fire – towards them.
Dumbledore stepped forward, beaming. "I can't say how pleased I am for you, Lily," he murmured, squeezing her hand in pleasure. Eyes over bright, he subtly excused himself.
Remus gazed around the room, not seeing anything in particular. Lily moved to stand beside him, waiting patiently – she'd always been more patient than James. There was silence for a few moments as both of them searched for the right words.
He glanced at her jerkily, smiling. Inclining his head towards hers, as though to offer a secret, he murmured, "I'm so very happy for you, Lily."
Lily smiled back, blissfully. "Thank you, Remus. Actually… actually, I have a favour to ask of you. James – James didn't want to say anything, before we'd asked you, but… we agreed, just then."
She nodded firmly, patting his hand as though to support her words. Remus was startled to see tiny tears forming in the corners of her eyes, and he straightened, suddenly more alert than he'd felt all day. This, whatever this was, was the last thing he'd expected.
"What is it, Lily?" he asked, voice low and urgent.
Lily bit her lip, drawing a deep, calm breath. "Well… my dad passed away a few months back, yeah? And… and, well, James and I were th-thinking, you know? Since he won't be around… would you do me the honour of… of walking me down the aisle, Remus? I couldn't think of anyone I'd rather have."
Remus blushed suddenly, unable to meet her eyes once more. "Are you sure? I mean… it's always been a given that Sirius is best man, but all these plans – are you sure you're not rushing? And… me? I mean, people will talk…"
Lily clutched at his hands, turning him to face her frown. "Hey! James and I have discussed this before. It was always Sirius as best man, Peter for ring-bearer, and you… to give me away. Yeah? We haven't rushed. Remus, you're one of my oldest and dearest friends. Of course I'm sure – of course we're sure!"
Lily met his eyes searchingly, her gaze equally as fierce as it had been at sixteen. He remembered the first time they'd met, on the Hogwarts Express: the forthright young girl dragging the scruffy, oily-haired boy in her wake, effectively invading his compartment without so much as an apology; and then, later, her relief as he joined her at the Gryffindor table, after the Sorting. Their years of gentle, dependable friendship: it all boiled down to this.
"Yes, of course Lily. I'd love to."
Lily beamed, laughing with joy and excitement. She leaned up and kissed his cheek eagerly before turning to gaze around for her other half. Spotting his familiarly messy hair, she grabbed Remus' hand and towed him towards the huddle of young men.
"James! James, he said yes!"
James met Remus' eyes over the top of Lily's fiery hair and simply nodded, once, in thanks. A smile was in his eyes as he ushered them into the little group, and Benjy cheerfully handed Remus a glass of sparkling wine.
"I'm never drinking again," Lily moaned, clutching her head between her hands.
"Blame Sirius," James offered cheerfully, his remarkable ability of recovery from a wild night of alcohol-fueled philosophy almost painful to Lily's sight. "Besides – I really doubt you'll keep that promise, I'm afraid."
Lily struggled upright on the lounge, crossing her arms. "I do blame Sirius. All his talk about the future is quite enough to inspire anyone to the drink. And I won't drink again, not until you give me reason to, anyway, Potter."
James hid a smile: she was obviously recovering. "A good reason or a bad reason?" he inquired curiously.
Lily grinned, lifting her face up for a kiss. "Good, please. I don't want to have to hex you, now, do I?"
James rolled his eyes. "Of course not. And I'll look forward to it, Lily. You're an adorable drunk."
Lily blushed with pleasure and confusion. "I try my best."
The key fumbled unsteadily in the lock. A strong, warm hand covered Lily's own, and she grinned weakly as James slid his arm around her.
"You've had too much to drink," James murmured, delighted, breath whispering past her ear. Behind them came the telltale click, momentary pause and then quiet thud of Sirius and Remus disappearing into Sirius' flat. James kissed her cheek, smiling. "You never have too much to drink anymore!"
Lily planted her hand on her hip, beaming giddily as she allowed James to guide the key, and her hand, more firmly. Door open, she turned to him, laughter in her eyes.
"Well, I don't often have something this important to ce-ce-celebrate, do I?" she whispered in reply, tugging him into the flat. She stumbled a bit, but James steadied her easily, arm around her waist.
He chuckled, leaning down to kiss her as he closed the door firmly behind him, sending a precautionary glance around their flat. Their meal was as it had been left – plates everywhere, food half eaten, serving dishes piled high, glasses half empty. James eyed it with regret, but he knew that proportionally, a spoiled Christmas dinner ranked fairly low on his list of grievances with the world, at least as it stood with all the Voldemort nonsense. Lily tugged at his hand, returning his attention to her with the precision of a stunning spell. Lily was never so adorable as when she'd been drinking, and tonight, and every night from now on, she was his. Inches from her lips, he paused, eyes widening. The room was a little blurry – Lily had just knocked his glasses askew with a clumsy hand to his cheek – but if he squinted and cocked his head to the side, he was pretty sure he could see-
James straightened very suddenly, and his free hand leapt to his head, fingers tangling in his unruly hair. Lily's eyes fluttered open once more and she frowned up at him, slowly comprehending a look of alarm.
"James? James, what's wrong?"
He swiftly straightened his glasses, although this seemed to do nothing to improve the situation unfolding before his eyes.
"Oh Merlin," James swore softly.
"James." Patricia Evans greeted him with a curt nod from the middle of his lounge room. Her expression darkened as she turned to regard her daughter. "Lily. Merry Christmas."
"Mum!" Lily cried, flying across the room in excitement. "You'll never guess – or maybe you will –" James winced as she dangled her left hand inches before her mother's face. "James proposed, Mum. We're getting married!"
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