The Long Road Home

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Harry Potter characters within this story.

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Prologue

15th November 1981

Lily Potter stared into the vacant eyes of her husband.

James Potter didn't acknowledge her presence. Didn't even blink as she squeezed his hand; didn't react when she leaned in close, murmuring tearful words into his ear, imploring him to respond to her. To do something, anything to let her know that he knew she was there.

"James," she whispered, before adding quietly, "James...squeeze my hand if you can hear me," she held his hand higher, leaning closer to him on the hospital bed. He continued to stare through her. Her breathing hitched in her throat and she raised his hand to her lips, pressing them against it as another tear escaped her.

"Lily?" a voice spoke quietly behind her.

She didn't take her eyes from her husband; "Still no change," she said, quietly, her voice almost a whisper. She felt a hand grip her shoulder and closed her eyes, leaning her forehead against James and hers' clasped hands; "They said...they said if he hadn't responded by today –"

"He'll come around," Sirius spoke with such confidence that she almost believed it. But she knew that if she turned to look at him, knew that if she looked into his eyes, that she would see the same fear she felt; she would see the doubt and the anxiety. See the truth they were all too afraid to admit. It had been over a week since they had brought James to St Mungo's; over a week since he had last spoken.

She heard footsteps approach them; heard Sirius greet the new person 'Moony'; 'Sirius', the second greeting was colder, harder. A tone she rarely heard from him; but she was too distracted to be concerned.

"They found him."

Lily tensed as she awaited the name of the man who had betrayed them.

"Peter," Remus went on, "He's been taken to Azkaban; no trial."

"They should've killed him on the spot," Sirius tone was full of malice, "Should have tortured him; made him feel what James –"

"Sirius," her voice was weary as she spoke without turning to face them.

Sirius and Remus went quiet behind her. A moment later Remus stepped forward, coming into view. She glanced at him out the corner of her eye but then looked back at James. Remus drew up a chair and sat down next to her; a moment later she felt his warm hand cover hers and squeeze it reassuringly.

It was too much.

"That's all I want," she whispered, before she choked up and felt the tears build up suddenly, "I just want him to squeeze my hand." She sobbed and gasped for breath at the same time, before she turned desperate eyes to her friend; "Remus," she choked out but said no more, because she didn't know what she expected him to do.

She was pulled into his arms within a second and held tight against his chest. She sobbed against him; she knew that all hope was lost. She knew that he was gone.

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Lily ignored the calls of her son from the corner of the room, as she sat surrounded by all the books and medical articles she could possible find containing information on the Cruciatus Curse; its long-lasting effects, as well as those with information regarding neurological damage and treatments. It was all she had spent her time doing the past few months, ever since she had been given James' certain diagnosis; the damage to his brain was irreversible and there were no treatments available. No hope.

That's what they had been trying to tell her since then; she was determined to prove them all wrong. Her husband was in there somewhere; he was in there and he needed her. Needed her not to give up on him; needed her to find a way to fix it. Fix him.

She wouldn't stop until she had done it. She wouldn't stop until she had him back.

"Merlin!" Sirius voice rang out suddenly, causing her to look sharply in his direction as he walked through the door. Harry was in his arms when he addressed her; "Keep an eye on your son, will you, Lily," he said, his tone was joking but the laughter didn't reach his eyes, "He almost flew out the door when I came in."

Lily stood and walked over, guiltily taking him from Sirius arms. She pressed a kiss to Harry's cheek, "Sorry, baby."

"Sorry," the infant repeated with a wide smile, before kissing her back on the cheek.

"What's all this mess?" Sirius manoeuvred over the books and papers that were scattered about the floor.

Lily waved her wand and the books and papers gathered themselves into neat piles, "Just research."

Sirius glanced over at her and she saw a fleeting look of concern in his eyes before he turned his attention to the Prophet, "Did you find anything?" he asked; more out of politeness, she knew, as she was aware that Sirius had long given up hope that they could ever get James back.

"Nothing yet," she replied, with forced optimism. She bounced Harry on her hip, earning a laugh from him before he asked her to be put down. She did as he asked before she sat down on the couch, heavily.

"Have you heard from Moony lately?" Sirius asked, looking at her curiously.

Lily nodded, "Yes, he comes over quite often."

Sirius frowned, "I haven't seen him in weeks."

"Well, you are usually working," Lily stated, "I've told you whenever he comes by."

"He's avoiding me."

Lily didn't answer; it was too obvious for her to try to dismiss the statement. But she didn't want to get into another discussion about what had happened. About how things could have been done differently. If they had just trusted Remus...

No. She quickly nipped that train of thought in the bud. She wasn't going to waste time thinking about what they should have done back then. All that matters now is what they could do now to fix the mistakes they had made.

She had to look forward.

"I've applied for a place on the Healers training programme."

Sirius lifted up Harry, who had come to him with open arms, and regarding her searchingly for a moment. She felt irritated and uncomfortable under his glare, felt herself ready to snap at him. She knew what he was thinking; that she was wasting her time. Wasting her life away on something she could never change. But she didn't think that. She would never think that.

"Lily, those programmes take years to complete," he began, "Four years training and even then you're not fully qualified –"

"It's what I want to do, Sirius," she interrupted him, her tone leaving no room for discussion; "It's what I have to do."

Sirius kept his eyes focused on the floor for a few moments before he looked up at her, his eyes almost pleading with her; "Lily, I miss him too," he said, sounding strangely vulnerable, "But...but he's gone. He's gone," he repeated, seeming to choke up as he did so; "He wouldn't want this. He wouldn't want you doing this."

"He wouldn't want me to give up on him –"

"I know that he wouldn't want you to do this," Sirius said with a certainty that convinced her it was true. But she was determined.

"He told me. He wanted you to move on if you ever lost him."

"Stop," she snapped, her tempering flaring up quickly and then it was gone. She shook her head, "I know what I'm doing, Sirius. If he had...if he had died then it would be different." She swallowed, before setting her jaw, "But he's not dead."

Sirius held her look quietly for a moment before he turned regretful eyes down to his godson. She followed his look down to her son; her little boy who would have to grow up without a father. She swallowed, the feeling almost painful as she did so. No, he wouldn't grow up without a father, she vowed to herself. She would do everything in her power to bring him back.

And she would get him back.