A/N: Finis! This is hard to believe for me, that its over. It's been my baby, this story. So this is the epilogue. It's rather short, I hope good enough to be called 'sweet'. I hope it satisfies, hope it works. It was very difficult to write, believe you me, not only in technical form but because I'm so sad to be done! YES. I am contemplating a sequel, but that's not a promise. I want to do one; but I'm not sure if that would be...I don't know the word. Anyway, please read on.
A last note: thank you SO much to all of you who have added me or the story to alert or favorites, and to those of you who consistently review and encourage. I appreciate it all so very much!
Epilogue (Chapter Twenty six): Safe
Lily took the stairs two at a time, her palm skating along the staircase railing as she made her way back to her bedroom, three old and frayed books in one hand. She re-entered her room, smiling a little in the late-afternoon sunlight that streamed happily through her open window.
Running her fingers over the faded and dusty title of the book on top, the fairytales her father had read to her as a child, she wedged the books gently into the side of her trunk, furrowing her eyebrows in a bit of dismay as she glanced at the items still on the bed that needed to be fit in.
"Find them okay?" Edward Evans asked, appearing in her doorway. Lily turned toward him, placing a hand on her hip. Her father leaned against the doorway; arms folded, and shook his head with a raised eyebrow.
"Right next to that old pipe of Grandfather's you used to pretend to smoke," she replied. Edward snorted, nodding his head with a nostalgic smile. His eyes fell to the neat mess of luggage on her bed, then roaming over her packed things and her now bare room.
"Your mother's going to cry," he announced resignedly, shifting his gaze back to her. Lily rolled her eyes affectionately and reached for the cotton blanket her favorite aunt had made for her, tucking it in around the books, to protect them.
"You knew this day would come," Lily said, moving on to the last few clothing items that were left, folding them meticulously and finding places in the crammed trunk to place them. She heard her father make a noise of agreement.
"I guess your mom and I always figured you'd stick around longer. It's only been a month since Tuney left," Edward hesitated, and rolled his head back and forth, "but we have had time to adjust to you not being around."
Lily turned back to her father, patting down all the things in her trunk and shutting it with a loud click, satisfied it shut okay. Her ponytail brushed against the base of her neck as she turned, and she crossed her arms, running her hands up and down her shoulders.
"It's been a good three weeks," she said, smiling genuinely, looking at him with shining eyes.
And it had. She'd come home from school to a better environment than there had been for Christmas. Her mother hadn't been so coddling, and since she herself had been healed considerably, it had been easier to slip easily back into familiar ways. She'd reconnected with family members she hadn't seen, and even spent a little time politely listening to Petunia brag about Vernon's wonderful job and their wonderful house and how wonderfully wonderful their marriage was.
She did have her own bit of fun there by informing Vernon of exactly what she was and promptly proving it to him by turning his favorite pair of shoes into very large frogs.
James had even hung around a bit. A lot, actually. Her mother, of course, had always been warm towards him, but Edward had turned a critical eye on him at once when he realized there was more going on than what either his daughter or James let on to. Edward Evans insisted on introducing James to the record player and his favorite bands when he realized the wizard boy didn't actually know what any of it was.
Lily hesitated with her next words as she looked at her father, knowing they'd already had this conversation, and it had indeed been hard.
"You know I couldn't stay forever," she said, winking at him. "This isn't my place anymore," she added, shrugging rather apologetically, "I'm part of a different world."
Edward rolled his eyes patronizingly and smirked.
"I came up here to tell you James arrived ten minutes ago. But I let your mum make him tea and made him listen to The Who before I let you in on it."
Lily gave him a pained look and shook her head, resisting the urge to stick her tongue out at her impossible father.
"I know you like him, Daddy," Lily sighed, reaching for her wand on the bedside table and twirling it lazily in her fingers, "so why do you continue to insist on acting like he's the worst possible thing that could happen to me?" she raised an eyebrow.
"It's fun," he answered childishly. And then, he added darkly, "at least you can pick them better than your sister."
Lily laughed and nodded, whistling through her teeth.
"How are you going to fit all that junk on the broomstick?" Edward asked, jerking his head at the things on Lily's bed. She stopped twirling the wand and looked at him quizzically, her eyebrow going up slightly more.
"What?" Edward asked defensively, "Isn't he going to fly you away on a broomstick? Or something?"
Lily groaned and reached quickly for a pillow, chucking it at her father. He blocked it, laughing gruffly. Lily held up her hand grandly and turned to her bed like a magician. Her tongue between her teeth dramatically, she pointed her wand at the bed and flicked it. Immediately, the luggage shrank down to pocket sizes, jumbled in a little pile in the middle of the bed. Lily swept them up and lightly dropped them into her jeans pocket, planting her wand in there with them, and bowing to her father.
He rewarded he with a few claps and another throaty laugh. He held out his arm and beckoned her forward.
"Come on, Red," he said, employing her old nickname. He slipped his arm around her shoulders and led her down the hallway.
Lily took what would probably be her last glances at the photos of her family, of her life, documented on the hallway walls, and subsequently the staircase. Birthdays, Christmases, Vacations—they were all there; and most before she'd ever heard of Hogwarts or Witchcraft or James Potter.
It felt strange to be leaving her childhood home. To be going to live somewhere else, virtually on her own, for good. Not…depressing or sad like she'd imagined, just strange. Maybe a little exhilarating and, deep down, relieving, though she'd never admit it.
"Lily," Edward said suddenly, stopping her on the stairs. He glanced downwards, making sure his wife was still in the kitchen, and turned to Lily, his face solemn, eyes a little sad.
"I want you to know how proud I am of you, baby." He said slowly. Lily pressed her lips together. "Of everything you've done; how you've always taken care of yourself. You've grown up too fast, I think, but you sure as hell did a good job of it. I don't know what kind of danger your facing out there—but I know more than you think, just from speaking with Nick. You've shown strength I didn't know you had, and you held us together in a way, through everything you had to deal with."
Lily swallowed hard and tried to roll her eyes at his sappy speech, her lips quivering.
"That's brilliant, Dad, make me cry," she whispered, a watery laugh escaping. He smiled and cast his eyes down, looking back up and studying her carefully.
"Take care of yourself, Lily," he said seriously, leaning forward and kissing her forehead. He smiled, squeezed her shoulder, and made his way down the stairs, before her. As she composed herself and started to follow him, she heard his goofy booming voice saying something that was no doubt asinine to James.
She leapt off the stairs at the last, skipping the final one, and moved lightly into the sitting room, where her mum was perched on the sofa and James sat lounging in her father's favorite armchair, examining Lily's favorite record. He looked up at her entrance and pointed at it with raised eyebrows.
"So you were telling the truth. They really are a band," he announced, exposing the Abbey Road Beatles' record to her. He stood up and set the record gently on top of the pile next to the player, balancing it with all the others.
Lisabeth rubbed her palms together and stood up, clasping them tightly, her eyes teary.
"You're really leaving," she said with a sigh, shaking her head. Lily didn't respond except for a smile. She reached out her hands and took her mothers, kissing her cheek and hugging her before pulling back.
Lily tilted her head at her mother and smiled, knowing just how much she was going to miss her parents, and realizing how grateful she was to each of them, completely. James shoved his hands into his pockets and grinned at her, shifting his weight.
"You write me, Lily Evans, you hear?" Lisabeth said sternly, shaking her finger.
"Don't cry, Mum," Lily replied, shaking her head with a fond smile.
"I'm going to miss you," Lisabeth replied, squeezing Lily's hands before she let them go.
Lily looked over her mum's shoulder to where her father had reclaimed his armchair. Edward winked at her and rolled one eye at his wife's back, as if he hadn't just displayed the same sort of emotion on the staircase.
"Goodbye, Mum," Lily said gently, nodding. "Daddy," she said, nodding to him. He winked.
James turned and extended his hand to Edward, and Lily's father gripped it warmly, nodding his head in appreciation.
"Mrs. Evans," James said nicely. Lisabeth put her arm around him, though he was nearly a foot taller than her, and gave him a half-hug, still obviously holding back tears.
"Lisabeth," she informed him as she stepped back, letting her hand fall to Edward's shoulder. He reached up and squeezed his wife's fingers comfortingly. Lily gave them one last long look and smile before she gestured for James to go past her.
"James, my boy," Edward called shortly. James turned around, as if he knew he wouldn't get fare without a final word from Lily's dear old dad. "You remember what we talked about," was all Edward said cryptically. James smirked and sort of saluted the older man, reaching his hand out for Lily.
She gave her dad a suspicious look and a smile before she took his hand and followed him out, dropping it at her side and letting their fingers simply brushed as they weaved out through the hall to the front entrance of her house.
Once she had shut the door of her childhood home gently behind her and stepped out with James onto the grassy down of the front lawn, she turned to him, her eyes narrowing to avoid the soft sunlight.
"What did you and my father talk about?" she asked teasingly.
"My rules," James answered promptly. Lily raised a questioning eyebrow, indicating he should further elaborate. With a dramatic sigh, he held up fingers as he began to recite:
"Rule number three: I can't be closer than ten feet to your bedroom door after seven o'clock. Rule number five: I'm not allowed to sit in dark places with you. Rule number twelve: I'm not allowed to say and or do anything romantic to make myself attractive to you—"
Lily covered his mouth with her hand, laughing, rolling her eyes. She seemed to be doing that a lot lately.
"I should have known he didn't take this idea as well as I thought," she said, her green eyes twinkling. James shrugged.
"I don't think he realized that my Mother is going to put you on a completely different floor than me. Nor did he anticipate my father's sixth sense to know exactly when I plan on doing something devious." He answered slyly.
Lily smiled, rested her hand against his shoulder.
She had, when Rosalie potter had extended the invitation herself, taken James up on his offer of a place to stay. Though she did enjoy the novelty of being home and she had decided she wanted a place that was sort of her own, she'd found it harder than she'd thought to live in the muggle world, and compromised. She would be staying with the Potters temporarily while she and Alice searched for a flat together. Alice, even though she had a comfortable home in her own world, had opted for a bit of independence, and Lily had thought it fit that they rent together in light of their positions in the Order.
Lily blinked up at the sun and looked back at James, tilting her head. He put his arm around her shoulders and turned, one hand in his pocket as they made their way to the sidewalk that ran along Lily's entire neighborhood.
"The meeting?" Lily asked, glancing around at the familiar sights she was leaving. James shrugged without worry, rubbing her shoulder, pulling her closer to his side.
"We've got time," he said.
Lily reached for the thin chain on her neck that she'd slipped her phoenix pendent onto, and lifted the small bird out of the neck of her shirt, running the pads of her finger over the cool metal.
Their first meeting as members of the Order of the Phoenix was tonight.
Her knuckles brushed against the quartz heart that still rested at the base of her throat, the Christmas gift from James.
Two emblems of who she was, two items of comfort and hope for her.
Lily looked around at the neighborhood again, the immaculate houses, the way everything looked peaceful and calm and so sweet.
"It feels like we've got all the time in the world," she said, a tinge of sadness in her voice, because she couldn't forget the darkness they inevitably had to face.
"Technically, we've got until five."
Lily laughed, leaning her head back and resting it against James's shoulder as they took a slow, scenic walk, momentarily neglecting to apparate away. Enjoying the day instead.
In this moment, standing on the safe streets of her childhood, wrapped in the security she'd always had here, and talking with James, the rock who had been there when she wasn't safe to show her there was still a haven, and there were still beautiful things everywhere...just in this moment…it felt like paradise.
Safe by Blue October
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