Please note, this is the beginning of a series called Never Again, a completely AU universe that doesn't follow canon at all, so be aware, relationships and professions are changed and are vastly different from the books, characters may or may not behave as they are portrayed in the books either, and it features a small Harry Potter. This story is full of angst and very emotional--you will need Kleenex for this and other chapters!! Enjoy!

Hero's Farewell

September 11, 1981

"All of us gathered here today to celebrate and to mourn the untimely yet heroic death of James Charles Potter know that he would have wanted people to remember his life, not his death. While it is true that Auror Potter died in the line of duty, destroying one of the most notorious of evil wizards, Tom Riddle, who had renamed himself Lord Voldemort, I believe that James would rather have been remembered not as the hero who brought down Voldemort, but as a loving husband and father and the best friend a bloke could ask for." Here Sirius Black paused to dash away the sudden tears that were flowing from his eyes.

Remus, who was standing to his left to offer moral support while his best friend gave the eulogy, offered the distraught Animagus a tissue. "Here, Siri. Blow your nose, then take a deep breath. You're almost done, you know."

Sirius took the proffered tissue gratefully. "Thanks, Moony. If it weren't for you and Sev over there," he jerked his head at the solemn form of the Master Healer, standing off to the left in his best set of Healer whites, one hand resting comfortingly on the shoulder of James's wife. "I'd be baying like a maniac right about now. I . . .I really hate goodbyes, Moony." He swiped at his eyes again with the tissue, then took a deep breath and composed himself before turning about to face the rather large number of mourners and press gathered at the graveside of James Potter.

"Sorry. I . . .I don't mean to get all choked up." Sirius continued awkwardly. "James wouldn't have liked that. Once, when we were first working a case, hunting down a criminal called Red Blade, James said to me that if he were ever killed in the line of duty, he wanted everyone to drink a toast and think about how he was causing mayhem up in heaven, telling jokes to all the angels and singing off-key in the choir, because anybody who knew James knew he couldn't sing a note to save his arse if it were on fire." Some people laughed softly at Sirius's comment, for it was true. James might have had a face to charm the ladies, but his singing voice was worse than a dog howling. "We all know how much James loved a good time. He was never happier than when he was with his family and friends, playing pranks and joking around. At school, he was always in trouble for playing jokes when he should have been studying . . .and so was I, I'll admit. Fact is, the only way we managed to pass Hogwarts OWLs was because our good friend Healer Snape tutored us. Thanks, Sev. I know we drove you bonkers. I think you threatened to tie James to his chair once because he couldn't sit still long enough to read a paragraph." More laughter followed this statement.

"Actually, it was a Sticking Charm, Siri," Severus said quietly, smiling a little at the memory.

Beside him, the graceful auburn-haired Lily Potter sniffed, and said sadly, "He could try the patience of a saint sometimes, Sev, but God . . .I'm going to miss him." She quickly dropped her eyes to the ground, but there were no tears in them. Not yet. She refused to break down in public, though the loss of her husband left a gaping crater in her heart.

"I know, Lil. We all will, especially Harry," said the Master Healer. Sirius was speaking now of James's boyhood escapades, all of which the two knew by heart, since they'd been a part of many of them. The five of them had been childhood playmates and friends, Lily and Severus had been neighbors and they had met James, Sirius, and Remus at Hogwarts. At first, things had been awkward between them, since Severus and Lily were in Slytherin and Ravenclaw and the others had been Gryffindors, but they had soon learned to set aside the House rivalry and become friends. It was a friendship that had lasted through school and beyond.

"Speaking of Harry, where is he?"

Lily raised her head, her green eyes sorrowful. "He's with my parents, Sev. I didn't want him to be at the funeral, he's too little to understand, and it'll only upset him. He keeps looking around for James and calling Dada. It just about breaks my heart, Sev."

He gave her shoulder another comforting squeeze. "I know, little flower," he murmured, using the pet name he'd invented for her long ago, when they had once entertained thoughts of dating, until James had come dashing in and swept Lily off her feet. "Someday we'll have to tell him about his father, since he won't really remember him at all. But for now . . .how are you holding up, Lily?" The instant the words left his mouth, he wanted to kick himself. How do you think she's holding up, Snape, you idiot? She's just lost her husband, for Merlin's sake!

Lily gave him a weary smile. "I . . .I'm managing. It's about all I can do, right now. I just want this to be over. James was never one for long farewells. You know him. It was always, Bye, luv, see you in the morning! Give a kiss to the rugrat for me, and I'll be back soon as I kick Voldy's scaly arse! Then he'd give me a quick kiss and a hug and off he'd go, wand in hand, ready to teach those slimy necromancers what it meant to mess with Auror Potter again." Lily sniffed sharply. "God, he loved his job, Sev. But there were times I used to wish . . .that he'd be content to just stay home with me and Harry."

"That was never James's way," Severus said honestly. Good one, Severus! Some friend you are, reminding her of how her husband was never home most of the time. He wanted to slap himself, but he was not at his best during funerals. He hated them, he had seen too many of them during his short twenty-one years of life, and his physician's soul dreaded them like the plague. He always felt so awkward and he never knew the right words to say, since "I'm sorry" just wasn't enough.

"No." Lily agreed. "I always knew that he would either die a hero or die doing some insane Quidditch stunt, because it wasn't in James to go quietly into the night, an old man in his bed. He was like those Spartans of ancient Greece-with your shield or on it, all glory and honor to die in battle." Her mouth tightened then. "I'm glad, though, that he died doing what he loved best, saving innocents from scum like Riddle, and that his sacrifice will be remembered. He'd of liked that."

"Yes. I'm sure he's looking down from heaven right now and swearing at the wizard artist who made his sculpture in the Ministry, saying he was much handsomer than that and why couldn't old Voldy be smashed flat under his boot, like a gladiator's fallen opponent in ancient Rome? But at least he'll go down in history as one of the three who killed Voldemort."

"Four," Lily corrected softly. "Don't sell yourself short, Master Healer."

Severus waved a hand dismissively. "All I did was invent a potion, Lily. James, Padfoot, and Moony did all the real work, fighting him and his Inner Circle in that last battle."

"If it weren't for your little Null Magic Draft, Sev, they'd have never been able to kill him for sure," Lily disagreed. "That made it possible for Remus to get through his shields and protections and tear out his throat, and for Sirius and James to immobilize him as well. Without that, they'd never have been able to kill him, he was too strong magically. No one else would have ever thought of inventing a potion you could use as a contact weapon, spraying it at old Snake Head like an insecticide. You were instrumental in Riddle's death just as much as any Auror, that's why the Ministry gave you the Order of Merlin First Class."

Severus sighed. "I'd have rather them give me a donation to St. Mungos, it'd be of more use than a medal. We could use the extra for more medical supplies. We were understaffed to begin with, and now we barely have space for all the new casualties from this last battle. Blessed Nimue, but at least now the Beast is dead, we won't have to worry about working ourselves to death trying to heal everyone he's victimized."

Lily nodded solemnly, Severus's words recalling to her the fact that she was not alone in losing a loved one to the crazed megalomaniac. Plenty of other families also faced the devastating loss of a loved one as well. "We can all sleep a little easier at night now that he's gone. James would be the first to tell me that."

Up on the rostrum, Sirius was making his closing remarks, sniffling softly into another tissue. "So . . .what I'd like to say most about James is that he was a good man-he was like my brother, got me into trouble on a regular basis, but he also got me out of it too, and when it came time to face the consequences, whether it be angry parents or employers or whatever, he stood right by me and took his lumps and never complained. And when we fought old Voldy and his Inner Circle, James never hesitated. He got right in the bastard's face and told him here was a present from a secret admirer and he let him have it with that Null Magic Draft of Severus's. He knew it would most likely mean his death, but he did what he had to do, his duty as an Auror, and for that I'll honor his memory always. He was kind of like that ancient Greek hero Achilles, he chose to die a hero, and his name will never be forgotten."

Then the Auror pulled out a bottle of firewhiskey and a glass and poured a measure of it. "Here's to you, James. Don't drive poor St. Peter nuts up there, y'hear, mate?" He downed the shot in one swallow, then banished the glass and the bottle. "Thanks for listening."

He stepped down from the rostrum and Albus Dumbledore stood up and intoned gravely, "Let us all bow our heads and have a moment of silence to honor James, our fallen friend, husband, father, and hero. May the angels welcome him home for all eternity. Amen."

Then he waved his wand and James's coffin was slowly lowered into the grave. Brilliant white blossoms and shimmering stars accompanied the coffin to its final resting place. Slowly, each mourner lifted a handful of dirt and threw it into the grave as they went by.

Lily's hand trembled as she did so, but she remained dry-eyed until Albus sealed the grave with another spell and caused a beautiful blanket of carnations to grow over it.

Only then did the finality of her husband's death hit her. He's gone. He'll never come home to me or Harry again. Her heart whispered, and it seemed as if her entire being screamed in denial. She whirled around, intending to run away before she fell apart entirely, only to be caught in a pair of strong arms.

She buried her face in Severus's familiar white robes, shaking and whimpering, "Sev, he's really gone, isn't he? Oh Merlin, what do I do now?"

Severus said nothing, he simply held her as she began to sob, allowing herself the release of tears at last. He held her for a long time, as she sobbed and sobbed, dampening his robe with tears of sorrow and regret and longing for the brave smiling man who was now still forever beneath the great oak tree in the Ministry cemetery for fallen heroes.

A/N: Well, how did you like? Please review! Next you'll meet a small toddler Harry and Lily's parents!