Title: What Forever Promises (Sequel of Runaway Love)
Chapter Title: About Fifth Birthdays and Puppy Love
Disclaimer: None of the HP characters are mine.
Summary: Set almost ten years after Runaway Love, James and Lily are married and raising their son, Harry. In this sequel, the gang struggles to establish careers, build families, and attract and maintain real love. Some characters leave for good while others return home. As the gang busies themselves with every day life, a dangerous predator stalks the edges of their world, obsessively awaiting revenge and choosing a main player to become their unwilling victim.
Author's Note: If you had asked me last year if I thought about writing a sequel to Runaway Love, I would have laughed and said, "Hell no." But in finishing the original Runaway Love piece, I grew confident that the story I had spent a year and a half of my life writing could continue. And so here it is, the sequel that was never supposed to be. But is because I just couldn't help myself.
Prologue: About Fifth Birthdays and Puppy Love
"I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
Or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
Secretly between the shadow and the soul."
It wasn't unusual that James Potter often awoke before the sun rose.
It also wasn't unusual lately that as he stretched his long body across his four-poster, king-sized bed, fingers and toes reaching, he found the spot where his wife was supposed to be empty. Eyes still closed, he rolled over onto his back and sighed loudly. He ran a lazy hand through his thick mess of hair, ruffling it purposefully before swinging his legs over the side of the bed in one swift motion to the wooden floor.
He glanced around the large bedroom. Nearly ten years ago, when the whole gang had still been involved in undergraduate and graduate studies, they had helped Lily Evans tear down and rebuild her mother's house. Everything had been replaced by new and contemporary furniture, rooms, and styles. Their bedroom, as far as James was concerned, was a testimony to all things new and contemporary. Lily had insisted on getting the largest bed at the furniture store.
"Come on, James," she had begged, pouting her lower lip, "this bed is gorgeous and just think…" her voice lowered as she leaned up, hugging him, and her lips brushed the outer shell of his left ear, "Think about all the things we could do with this amount of space."
Needless to say, James had agreed and they had ended up with the gigantic bed. Surprisingly, however, the bed wasn't the piece of furniture that took up the most space. It was, of course, the vanity mirror, the computer and entertainment center that occupied three fourths of their bedroom. James's favorite part of their bedroom was not the bedroom itself but the private, master bathroom attached. Some of James's fondest memories had been made in their bathroom.
James shook his head and stood up at once, rubbing his eyes and walking out of the room down the long hallway. The hall was decorated with framed pictures of the entire gang over the last ten years. A few were of Sirius Black and Jordan Gakdut working as private investigators at the Auror Headquarters, laughing and playing practical jokes on one another, and a spotted few were of Remus Lupin and his wife, Tonks, on James and Lily's wedding day.
Some were of Bella Potter, James's younger sister, in different countries like Guatemala, her first study abroad trip ever, and then in the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Haiti, Bangladesh, the Balkan states, and various countries in Africa. A most recent picture of her was taken in the Darfur region of Sudan where she was photographed helping and speaking with three little girls by a muddy river. The picture had made the front cover of a national newspaper. James had designed and made a collage of all his sisters' work in foreign countries and had them displayed along the walls.
James entered his favorite room, his fortress of solitude. The art room he insisted on building himself. The room was spacious and held within it three long, wide wooden tables. The first table on his left when he walked in had canvases piled on top of one another. His 'dirt' pile. The middle table had paintings sporadically spread from one corner to the other. His favorite pile. And the third table was completely empty, paint splattered dry across the surface. This was the table he usually worked on.
There were three long windows that started two feet from the floor and ended about six inches from the ceiling. Long white drapes touched the floor and James pulled them gently back, tying them each with delicate blue ribbons. He turned back to his art room, inhaled a deep breath, and walked toward a large white cabinet against the far wall. And after pulling supplies from the cabinet, he carefully closed the two doors and turned to begin his hobby, his art.
"I love you as the plant that never blooms and carries
Hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
And thanks to your love, darkly in my body
Live the dense fragrance that rises from the earth."
The sun was already beginning to rise past the trees across the street when James heard an inconsistent knock on the door behind him. He turned on his stool to see his art room door open and in came a skinny little boy, with knobby knees and the bright green eyes of James's absent wife.
"Happy birthday, Kiddo," James said, smiling, and opened his arms wide as his son ran in and jumped on him, hugging him tightly.
Harry was his name and James loved him and Lily far beyond anything else in his life.
"Thanks, Dad," Harry grinned, pulling away and settling on James's lap. He pointed to the piece that James was currently working on. "This one is my favorite one of all. Mom says she likes the one in black and white but this one is so cool. Are you done with it yet?"
James regarded the painting in silence for a few long seconds. He wouldn't tell his five year old son that he was currently unhappy with every painting he had done so far and this particular one, he thought gloomily, would never be done the way he envisioned in his mind. So he shrugged and said lightly, "Not yet, Harry, but how about you slide a chair up beside me here and I'll show you an art trick I learned when you were just a baby?"
Harry gaped. "You mean the one you told me I couldn't learn until I was old enough? I'm old enough now? Really?"
James laughed and nodded. "Really. Pull a chair up and I'll teach you before we go down and make breakfast."
Harry jumped off James's lap in an instant and landed squarely on his feet before running to the outer edge of the room. He grabbed a chair and dragged it along the floor until it was beside his father's chair. He plopped down on it and looked up at James with a determined look in his eyes. "I'm Luke Skywalker."
James squeezed Harry's shoulder and said with a meaningful, dramatic look, "And I am Obi Wan Kenobi."
Harry nodded. "Show me the force."
And the two, simultaneously, turned toward the table and began to work.
"Um, hold on a second. No, wait, check."
James remained silent but Harry knew what that silence meant and guiltily replied, "Check."
James sighed, looking over disapprovingly at his son sitting on the counter. "What did I tell you about sitting on the counter, Harry?"
Harry immediately jumped off and leaned against the counter instead. "I think we have everything."
"Not yet." James smirked. "Measuring cups?"
Harry smacked his forehead with his palm. "Aye."
James lightly flicked Harry on the ear as he walked by and said, "Don't hit yourself. It's going to be difficult to make waffles if we don't have measuring cups."
Harry rubbed his ear, fixing his dad with an irritated look. "Don't flick my ear. I looked but I couldn't find them. They must have—" His voice trailed off when James slyly pulled out the measuring cup the five year old had spent the earlier part of the morning scouring the kitchen for. "Dad! Mom made you promise not to tease me on my birthday!"
James waggled his finger and tossed the measuring cup lightly in the air toward his son. "Well, what Mom doesn't know won't hurt her…"
Harry caught the measuring cup and turned toward his stack of supplies on the lower half of the counter. He stood on his stool and mumbled, "Well, when I accidentally broke Gram's vase in the dining room, you were singing a different tune…"
James flicked Harry's ear again and began helping his son mix the batter and water together. "Well, when you accidentally break Mom's favorite piece of antique that Gram gave her for her birthday, then yeah, the change of tune is sort of a necessity, Harry."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah." Harry said, slowly, and glanced up at his dad with a bright smile. "Auntie Bella is coming home today!"
James smiled and ruffled his son's hair. "That's right, Kiddo, and she's coming home just for you."
Harry frowned. "Really? I thought she was coming home because Uncle Sirius misses her."
James paused suddenly and then shook his head before saying, "Why don't you keep mixing this batter and I'll check to see if Mom or Auntie Bella has left any messages for us today by the front door?"
"Okey dokey." Harry said dutifully, turning toward the counter and increasing the speed of his arm motions.
James walked into the entry hallway and sure enough, sitting on top of a stack of notebooks was a letter written in his wife's handwriting. He picked it up and read:
Good morning, Handsome (both handsomes)
I'm sorry for leaving early this morning but know that I did kiss you, Harry, goodbye before I left today as I promised I would. Dad is supposed to help you make waffles this morning and if either he, or Uncle Sirius or Uncle Jordan tease you today, you just call me and put them on the phone and I'll set them straight. Happy Birthday, sweetheart, and I'll see you tonight for your birthday party!
And James, I spoke with GeGe and she said that we could totally use the house by the beach on Laguna at the end of the summer for our private getaway! I just need to check with everyone here at the studio and our plans should be set.
A couple things for today, though—please don't forget to get Harry's birthday cake, ice cream, and candles at the grocery store. I already have it all ordered, you just need to go in and pick it up. Also, Remus agreed to take Harry for an hour or so, so that you and I could meet for my lunch break today. Just call me on my cell and I'll meet you outside the studio. I love you and I'll see you soon.
James glanced up from his wife's letter at the sound of the telephone ringing. "Harry, could you answer that in the kitchen, buddy? That could be Auntie Bella calling to let us know her final arrival time for this evening!"
"Gotcha!" Harry shouted back and the phone stopped ringing and James, assuming Harry answered it, looked back down at the letter. There was a P.S:
P.S, I managed to do most of the cleaning earlier in the week but there are still some things that need to be taken care of. Jordan agreed to pick up Harry from Remus's office so if you could just make sure all the trash is out by the street for the garbage man and make sure all the dishes and utensils get put away in their proper spots before Harry's birthday party tonight, I would be so thankful.
P.S.S, you'll know how thankful tonight after Harry's party…
James grinned at the last line before tossing the letter back onto the pile of notebooks. He turned and headed back into the kitchen to see his son still mixing the ingredients together.
"Was that Auntie Bella on the phone?" James asked, curiously.
Harry shrugged. "I don't think so. No one said anything when I picked it up."
James frowned but walked over to the stove and turned it on. "Alright, Kiddo, it's time for you to go get dressed—"
"But I was just—" Harry started to protest but James shook his head.
"Detective Moody is expecting me in for ten o'clock this morning. I'll make sure these are done by the time you're finished getting ready." James said, directing his son with a slight nudge.
Harry regarded his father with a doubtful look. "You promise?"
"I promise." James said seriously. "Now go upstairs and don't forget to brush your teeth—"
Harry was already turning the corner when he shouted behind him, "I always brush my teeth!"
"For two minutes, Harry, not for two seconds!"
James could hear Harry's feet running up the stairs. "Yeah, yeah, yeah…"
James smiled and shook his head, hearing his son's complaints all the way down the stairs.
"Hey, look who it is!"
James rolled his eyes when he and his son neared the entrance of the Headquarters building. Both Sirius and Jordan joined them from the opposite direction, both grinning from ear to ear when Harry ran up and gave them both high fives. James stood back and watched his son do tricky, invented high fives with two of his best friends.
"How old you are now?" Jordan asked, lifting Harry onto his shoulders and digging out keys to unlock the entrance door.
It was a cliché question, one that Harry had been asked for two straight years now, but he still giggled and held tight onto Jordan's shoulders, saying, "Five, Uncle Jordan! I told you I would be five today! Don't you listen?"
Jordan laughed; shaking his head and pushing the door open for Sirius and James to enter before him. "Ah, I guess not or else I would have heard your Mom telling me that I get to have you over later this afternoon while your Dad goes out and gets your Birthday things."
Harry let out an excited "YAY!"
James let Jordan carry his son away and slowed to a stop just inside the entrance with Sirius.
"That kid gets smarter every single day." Sirius said, shaking his head in awe. "You know, he started asking me questions about relationships the other day."
Sirius nodded. "Yeah, Prongs, you have a lot of explaining to do. That little boy is going to be crazy, in a good way, of course, when he gets older. How is the birthday party planning going by the way?"
James shrugged and said, "Everything is all in order, I guess. I just need to head to the grocery store and pick up Harry's birthday cake and ice cream and we'll be all set."
Sirius scratched his chin, almost reluctant to ask, but deciding to in the end. "And Bella?"
James shook his head and put his hands up, almost like surrender. "Hey, I told you, Padfoot. You have questions regarding Bella, you go to Bella yourself. None of this in between business. Both Lily and I agree that we will not play mediator between you two."
"Both Lily and you?" Sirius cast a doubtful look. "Tell me, when has your beautiful, loving, attentive wife been home long enough for you two to have a conversation about Bella and me?"
James regarded Sirius with a dark, silent look.
Sirius seemed to immediately regret it. "Look, all I want to know is if she's really coming home today? And if you know, for how long?"
James clenched his jaw before saying, "Yes, she really is. And all I know is that she's coming home for longer than a few nights. How many I do not know."
Sirius groaned, running a hand through his hair tiredly.
"Why don't you just pick up the phone and speak with her yourself?"
Sirius glared at James. "Because I haven't in eight months. Not since I went to see her in Darfur and she told me that was her life and that she didn't want me a part of it as her fiancé."
Lily Potter smiled as she went along in the network studio, getting pats of congratulations on the back and greeting and speaking with important executive producers, television stars, and script writers. She was the co-creator slash co-executive and writer for her television series Runaway Love which featured (in her opinion as well as her co-creator, GeGe's opinion) an unbeatable ensemble and a top-notch, incredible, dedicated writing staff. The show was only shooting its first season and the major network that had tentatively picked the show up was only going to give a deal of thirteen episodes to see how it fared in the big sea of shows such as Heroes, House, and Bones.
Lily had tried and successfully made it in the movie stardom world but ultimately fell in love with the other side of Hollywood. The side where you were free to create art, be the hands behind set and the script. She had starred in a few highly successful independent films and had gotten unusual recognition for her work. It was mind-blowing, to say the least, that Lily even had her own coffee machine and a Hollywood chair that said prominently in white, bold letters, LILY POTTER.
Lily stopped walking suddenly when she caught sight of a handsome man about six foot two, hair sticking out at all points, twenty or so feet in front of her. She waited patiently for him to catch her looking at him before she silently made her way toward him. They met in the middle and she rolled her eyes up at him.
"You couldn't have just waited in the side lot…" Lily mumbled, closing her eyes to the sensual feeling of his lips moving slowly across hers.
James pulled back with a sly grin. "Well, I have this nifty gift, you see."
"I just say I am Lily Potter's husband and they let me right in."
Lily groaned. "I should've just kept to my maiden name."
James frowned and pulled her closer against him. "Well, that's not nice."
She was about to protest but his lips closed over hers again in another delicious kiss. This time, she felt him give all into the kiss and she tried to be conservative. But when his hands splayed across the small of her back and pressed her body more tightly against his, all thoughts about being light and conservative flew out the window.
She let out a soft moan from the back of her throat and wrapped her arms around his neck, leaning up closer and bringing his face as close to hers as she possibly could. She pressed her body against his but when she felt his teeth nip at her bottom lip, she abruptly stopped and remembered that she was still relatively new around the studio.
James seemed to sense her resolve and slowly stopped his kiss.
"How was Harry this morning?" Lily asked quietly, her forehead touching his.
"Absolutely happy to be five." James answered, pulling away and clearing his throat when he caught a few people staring at them in open surprise. They probably weren't used to seeing a passionate, solid couple show love so openly in this business. "And was psyched when I told him he would be spending the later part of the afternoon with both his Uncle Remus and his Uncle Jordan."
"How is Remus?" Lily asked as they began walking.
James shrugged, confused by the question. He didn't say anything, however, and instead just sent his wife a questioning gaze.
She stammered a bit before shrugging too. "Well, I just know that Tonks said she has some important things to tell Bella and I later tonight so I just figured it had something to do with Remus, too."
"He hasn't said anything." James said.
"Speaking about confusing situations," Lily sighed, "I spoke to Bella earlier this morning and she won't stop asking me about Sirius."
"Her too, huh?" James shook his head. "Sirius wanted to know how long she would be staying."
Lily stopped and ran a tired hand through her hair. "What did you tell him?"
"Same thing you told me to tell him." James answered simply. "That I don't know and that he should call her himself."
Lily patted James affectionately on his chest before pushing the door open and walking out into the bright outdoors. "Good man."
James shrugged slightly, following her down the steps and across the studio alleyway. "I try to be."
"They both just need to learn that we all are no longer each other's messengers." Lily said, pulling her wallet out of her small purse. "Whether they choose to believe in it or not, Sirius and Bella are in their own relationship and whatever is between them stays between them. It's none of our business."
James frowned. "Right."
"Anyways, I also spoke to your mother earlier this morning—"
James whistled, impressed. "Wow, wifey, you're on a role—"
"Don't be funny." Lily fixed him with a stern expression but there was a hint of amusement in her tone. "I spoke to your mother—"
The couple turned suddenly at the sound of a man calling Lily's name.
Lily frowned before laughing when she saw who it was and what he was carrying. "Graham! What are you doing?"
The man named Graham came to a sudden halt before them and motioned to his hands holding cups of coffee. James frowned in distaste at the way this Graham was eyeing and grinning broadly at his wife. James stepped partially behind Lily and folded his arms across his chest without saying a word.
"You said earlier if I came to you with coffee, you and I could go out for lunch sometime this week to talk about the history behind my character on the show and his relationship with Dani." Graham answered, breathlessly.
Lily threw her head back and laughed. "Wow, you took that seriously?"
James smirked as Graham faltered. "Well, y-yeah?"
The redhead shook her head. "Graham, I was going to have lunch with you anyway. I didn't really mean for you to buy me coffee but that's so sweet of you, thanks hon!"
Graham smiled, obviously pleased with himself. His gaze, however, shifted behind Lily at James.
Lily smiled kindly at Graham and motioned behind her to James, saying, "Graham, this is my husband, James. James, this is Graham," Lily turned to her husband, wrapping an arm around his middle, "the amazing talent behind one of our main characters I was telling you about earlier this week."
James nodded at Graham in acknowledgement just as the younger man waved briefly, dejectedly, at him.
"Which is why I can't take that coffee today, Graham," Lily said apologetically, "But I'm sure GeGe would be happy to take my coffee and sit down and start the discussion with you."
Graham nodded, though obviously disappointed.
"See you after lunch." Lily smiled brightly at the handsome, younger man before turning and motioning down the alleyway.
The couple made it all the way to the entrance of café in silence before James opened entry door and said, "That was so cute."
Lily frowned at her husband's sarcasm. "Excuse me?"
"So, while you have a baby show to build up success, you also have a baby Lily-admirer to build up an obsession." James replied dryly as they stepped into line at the café.
"Okay, James, what are you on about?" Lily grabbed a few sandwiches and snacks, moving swiftly down the line.
"Graham." James said simply, effectively stopping her from moving forward and causing her to look up at him.
Lily stared at her husband, confused, before understanding finally kicked in. She put her sandwiches down, ignoring the annoyed people behind her, as she reached up and flicked James's ear. Hard. Really hard.
"Ouch." James rubbed his ear. "Harry insists I'm the only one who flicks ears but it's you who I've gotten it from!"
Lily picked up her sandwiches again and glared up at him before walking around him, saying, "I cannot believe you, you stubborn, thick-headed man."
James turned, wincing in pain from his ear. "You can't deny that that Graham was staring at you with puppy dog eyes."
"Yes, I can." Lily said stubbornly, thrusting the money on the counter and walking to find a table. "Graham is a passionate, talented, serious actor who could have any woman he wants. One, he only respects me and two, why would he go for an old woman like me when he could have anyone?"
James stared her up and down with desire in his eyes. "One, it doesn't matter if he respects you. Because that only just makes him want to sleep with you more. And two, you are not an old woman. I know that better than anyone."
Lily swallowed past the lump of emotion clogging her throat. She hated when he gave her bedroom eyes in public. It was completely unfair that they could do nothing about it. "Why does it matter anyhow if he takes to admiring me some? That just means he'll work harder when I ask him to."
They finally found an empty table by the far wall and they both sat down in a huff.
"So, are you going to remember to pick up Harry's birthday cake?" Lily asked finally once they both had settled down and were eating their sandwiches contentedly.
James sighed. "Of course. How could I forget?"
"You forgot last year." Lily answered, off-handedly.
James glared, frustrated by his wife's good memory. "I didn't forget the cake…"
"No, you just forgot to put Happy Birthday Harry on it."
He inhaled deeply, putting his sandwich down. "I'll remember his cake this year."
"And his ice cream." Lily said, finishing her sandwich.
James gritted his teeth. "And his ice cream."
"Lily…" His voice warned.
Lily put her hands up in surrender. "Just reminding you. It's the whole fun of having the cake, you know. Blowing the candles out and making a wish."
James's gaze darkened when it settled on Lily carefully licking mayonnaise from her lips. "I'll show you blowing candles and making a wish."
"Oh, that also reminds me!" Lily said suddenly. "As I was saying earlier, your mother called—"
"That reminded you of my mother?" James asked, with a slight shake of his head.
"No," Lily answered slowly and then groaned from frustration, "Tell me why is this sentence so difficult to get out, jeez!"
James waved his hands for her to continue.
"She is supposed announce something really important tonight."
"Everyone has big news to announce." James said, poking the last piece of his sandwich with his finger.
Lily frowned. "What does that mean?"
James shrugged silently.
His wife could see right through him, though, and tilted her head in confusion. "James, are you upset about something?"
James looked into Lily's green eyes and shook his head. "No, everything's fine."
"James, I've known you for ten years. Been married to you for about eight and had a son with you for about five." Lily squeezed his arm gently with her hand. "Tell me what's bothering you."
James inhaled. "It's nothing, really. It's just, now that Harry's old enough to decide if he wants to stay at Jordan's or Sirius's or Remus's, and you're off working on your new show, I just think it's time for us to sit down as a family to discuss—"
A beeper went off and Lily was staring at James before she realized the beeper was hers. She apologized and glanced down at it and swore under her breath.
James frowned. "Who's that?"
Lily waved the question away. "It doesn't matter. Just one of the extras. What were you saying?"
James was slightly thrown off but continued anyway. "I just think it's time for us to—Lily, my father has been pressuring me to take up one of the positions available at the office downtown."
Lily frowned. "But I thought you said you didn't want an office job? I thought you said—"
"I'm not going to take it but—"
The beeper went off again and Lily swore again, doing something to the buttons before turning her attention on him again. "But what? James, what about Harry? What about your vision of becoming a full-time paid artist?"
"That's what I'm trying to tell you, Lily," James said, shaking his head, "I don't think that's going to happen. I mean, I've barely produced anything worthwhile and most of the time I'm busy keeping Harry entertained throughout the day."
"But you can't just give up on your dream." Lily stated, shaking her head. "And why did you bring up your father if you say you're not going to take the office job?"
"Well, I'm thinking I sort of should." James answered, almost reluctantly. "I know your paychecks are very generous but mine with working at the Headquarters only part-time makes me feel like an unemployed moocher in the worst possible way…"
Lily fixed James with a disapproving look. "James…"
"I'm serious." James exclaimed. "I'm tired of—"
The beeper went off again and Lily groaned loudly in frustration. She glanced down at it again and shook her head, gathering her things. "James, I need to be back at the studio. They really need me."
James nodded, averting his gaze from his wife.
Lily caught hold of his chin affectionately and said softly, "Please do not make the decision to give up your dream right now. It's not worth it. It'll come to you, James, I promise. But for right now, I need to go and you need to go pick up Harry's birthday cake, ice cream, and candles. Don't forget." She leaned down and pecked him on the lips. "Love you."
"Love you too," He murmured, staring after her.
A/N: This prologue turned out to be longer than I thought and its original idea in my head isn't even complete. But I figured I'll just put what I have planned next on the upcoming chapter. Numero Uno. There was a lot of setup in this installment and I apologize if it bore you half (or fully) to death. I plan on this sequel, unlike its original, jumping straight into the action and nitty gritty of the characters and the conflicts. This was just a snapshot, folks, lol. Next chapter, you all will be like, "Okay, relax."
Let me know what you think about this beginning in a great review!