"Lily, it's him! Take Harry and run!"
Without comment, the auburn haired woman scooped her toddler son out of his swing before sprinting upstairs to Harry's room. She didn't look back, so James couldn't see the tears coursing down her cheeks. Her husband might as well already be dead; no one survived Lord Voldemort when he fixed his gaze upon them.
The rattle and crash of the back door being blasted down brought her back to the present. Fucking Peter! she cursed inwardly. Setting aside the rage at Wormtail's betrayal of them, Lily grabbed the snitch off Harry's bureau. A swift scoop had the 'escape bag' on her shoulder.
They knew that this situation might develop at any time. Her practicality had forced the young couple to prepare for the necessity of unplanned flight. Lily had meticulously developed a list of necessities, which would allow them to escape and evade Voldemort and his Death Eaters for a minimum of thirty days. Fifty thousand pounds, fifty thousand US dollars, ten thousand galleons, over a million pounds in various Eastern Block denominations, four changes of clothing, and three sets of muggle identification papers identifying them as citizens of Brazil, France and Canada were the mainstays of bag. James had insisted on the entire collection of Robert Ludlum be included in the bag, as well. Resignedly, Lily had shrunken the paperbacks before stuffing them in the bag. When they were dating, he stayed the night at her parents' home, sleeping on the couch in the lounge. Her Dad had been reading The Holcroft Covenant, so it was lying on the coffee table. James couldn't sleep and the rest was history. James Charlus Potter was a confirmed Ludlumite.
The tears continued to pour down her face. God she loved her husband. Idiotic, compassionate, jokester, loyal, intelligent, sexy, brave, bold and honourable was her man. She knew that he'd most likely be dead in the next few minutes.
With her son in her left arm, the bag over her shoulder and the snitch in her left hand, she tapped the Quidditch ball with her wand while sobbing, "Haven."
A wave of despair flooded Lily Potter right before silence reigned from the main floor of their rental cottage. They'd thought they were so smart by abandoning Rowan Hill and the other Potter properties while renting this little place. Not smart enough to check their Secret Keeper thoroughly, though.
The flow of her tears increased as she kissed her son on the forehead. Holding him close, she whispered, "I love you, Harry. Mummy loves you forever and ever. I love you. Your Daddy loves you Harry. Mummy and Daddy won't be around, but we love you forever and ever."
She knew she was about to die. After one more kiss, she laid her son in his crib. Harry's eyes, just recently taking on a greenish hue, blinked up at her in confusion. With a playful smile, he reached his chubby hand up to her. Sobbing, she gave his little hand a soft squeeze.
The creak of the fourth step from the top made her turn around, her face a rictus of fury. Unconsciously baring her teeth, she stood between her son and his would-be murderer. Her wand in her right hand, she drew a conjured knife from its sheath on her thigh with her left hand. If she were to die tonight, she would do what she could to take this soulless bastard with her.
The tall shadow of Lord Voldemort filled the hallway before his grotesque form appeared in the doorway. His red eyes flashed in murderous amusement before he cast his only spell. He was so fast, Lily didn't even get a chance to counter it.
"Now, now, let's wake up. You two are being terrible hosts," a high-pitched voice mocked.
Shaking her head, Lily Potter awoke to find herself lying next to James. Both of them were bound and seemed to be on the floor of the drawing room of the cottage. Looming over them was the skeletal deformed wizard who was known by his nomme de guerre, Lord Voldemort.
"Ah, good. The Countess of Richmond has joined us. Now for your husband. We have a delightful way of waking those who oversleep. We're sure you'll enjoy it." The man's tone was playfully psychotic. His mocking expression turned feral as he levelled his wand on James before shouting, "CRUCIO!"
James screamed as he thrashed against his bonds, his hazel eyes opening wide.
"STOP IT! STOP IT! I'LL DO ANYTHING! STOP IT!" Lily didn't even recognize her own voice, as her husband was tortured.
Cackling, Voldemort ended the spell. With a loving expression, he kissed his wand. When he noticed Lily watching him, he gloated, "I do so love this wand. Did you know that the core is from Dumbledore's phoenix? I love that little fact. I get to craft the perfect Britain with the power of my own enemy." Returning his gaze to the yew wand in his hand, he murmured, "Wonderful."
Moans from her left broke her attention from the train wreck that was Lord Voldemort. Turning her head, she saw her husband wincing in pain. "I love you James," she blurted out, unsure if she'd get another chance.
Slowly, he smiled before turning his head to face his wife. His eyes caressed her features before he replied, "Love you, too."
James rolled his eyes before snarking, "Would you please shut the fuck up? I'm having a very tender moment with my wife here and you're fucking it up. Do us a favour and shut it."
Lily couldn't help it, she burst into laughter. It was quickly replaced by screams as the creature that had been born Tom Marvolo Riddle honed his skill with the Cruciatus curse again, this time she was the target.
"Amusing to the last, my Lord," Voldemort scowled. "Your bravado knows no limits, does it? You two could have been among the giants of the age. Three times We offered you the privilege of joining Us at the highest level. Three times!" The deformed wizard shook his hand in front of James' face while extending three fingers. "Do you realize you are the only ones who have ever survived refusing Us even once? You would have been Our right and left hand. Not peers of Ours, for that is impossible, but you would have towered over the rest of Our servants."
Sneering he squatted down so his deformed face was right in Lily's, "So you will suffer. You will suffer greatly."
Straightening, he boasted, "Our genius knows no bounds outside of curiosity. As such, We have a new experiment for which you two shall be the test group." Swiftly, he burned a series of runes on the floor around the Potters, incanting in a language neither James or Lily had heard before.
"We shall transport you to the future in a few moments. You shall arrive in the middle of the glory that shall be the Britain ruled by Emperor Voldemort. You shall see all that you could have been but lost because of your lack of vision.
We think thirteen years is a good number." Leering at the twitching couple, he remarked, "Lucky thirteen after all."
Frowning, he tapped his chin with a long thin finger, "It's not really time travel, though. To be honest, We're really creating an etherspace pocket into which We shall send your bodies. In there you shall reside in suspended animation for exactly thirteen years before you are automatically returned to the here and now." With a mocking sneer, he amended, "Here and then, really."
Kicking James in the ribs, he punctuated his monologue with, "And We shall be waiting for you. After you are shown your son's grave, You shall have a one day head start before being tracked down to be killed. Your suffering shall be exquisite and drawn out. We shiver in anticipation."
"I repeat, would you please shut the fuck up?" Lily had to smile at her husband, but the tears overtook her once more. Harry. Their son was about to die. She really didn't care about herself; she only cared about her son.
Voldemort regarded the Potters with an evaluative expression before sighing dramatically. "Such a waste," he muttered.
After charging the runes, he mocked, "Bye now! See you in thirteen years!"
James woke with an aching headache. Come to think of it, his back hurt too. His arms felt like he'd been the target during Beater practice. His foot hurt also. Ouch. His foot really throbbed.
"Holy buggering shite," he groaned.
His mind clearing as if doused in cold water, he sat up, ignoring the protestations of his body. "Lils, are you alright?"
"I…I think so. Man, my head hurts. What happened…" she trailed off as memory flashed back to them both. Looking around the Potters took in the room about them. The once pristine walls were blackened as if a fire had raged there.
Simultaneously, they both stood only to stagger up the steps. "Harry," James breathed.
Together, they stumbled into the nursery. Or rather, what was left of it.
The entire back wall of the room was gone, shards of Harry's crib scattered about the room. There was no lingering smell of smoke or any other residue.
James turned to his wife who was crying. "It's been thirteen years," Lily repeated.
Overwhelmed, James had to act. He was a very intelligent man, but repose was not his strong suit. He worked best while in motion. Wrapping his arm about his wife's shoulder, he coaxed her out of the room. "Come on, love. Let's find Padfoot. Find out what's been going on since…"
"Since we've been gone," she finished hollowly.
Swallowing heavily, he nodded.
"It must be October thirty first of nineteen ninety four," she observed. Narrowing her eyes, she declared, "I don't believe it. I don't believe that Harry's dead."
"Yeah," he replied. Come on Padfoot. Be there buddy. Have the right answers.
The two exhausted figures staggered through the winged boar figures, which guarded the gates of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. James and Lily hadn't found Sirius at his flat in London. In fact, the flat had a coating of dust an inch thick. Neither had they found Remus at his flat.
"I really didn't expect to find Moony. With his furry little problem, he never can keep a flat for any period of time."
"If he wasn't such a prat about it, we could help him," Lily snarked.
"Yeah, but you know Remus."
It was obvious to both of them that they were trying to distract themselves from the omnipresent concern: Where Was Harry?
"Dumbledore will know," James opined. "And if he doesn't, I'll choke the life out of him for suggesting that damn charm."
Lily nodded guiltily. She'd joined the cause when Albus had brought up the obscure bit of magic known as the Fidelius Charm. James had been leery about leaving the wards of Rowan Hill, but trusted his wife and her judgement.
"I'm so sorry," Lily choked out.
Turning to her midstride, James pulled her into his arms. "Love, I didn't say that to accuse you. We both made the decision to use the spell. If anyone is to blame, it's me. I pushed us to use Peter."
"Don't you worry," she growled, "Peter Pettigrew has a reckoning coming; of that there is no doubt. But his betrayal isn't your fault." Her composure regained, she pulled back to look him full on the face, declaring, "I love you James Potter. Now, let's find our boy."
As they proceeded back up the worn path to the castle, James took her hand. She smiled. If she squinted, she could imagine they were coming back from a date in Hogsmeade. "You know, since it's Halloween, there's going to be some good food for dinner," observed the tall hazel eyed wizard.
Rolling her eyes, Lily gave his hand a tug, urging him up the path.
Eventually, they made their way to the castle. Pushing open the doors, they saw that the Halloween feast was in full swing, if the noise and light coming from the hall was any indication.
"He'd be a fourth year," James whispered.
"He is a fourth year," Lily corrected.
They turned the corner to see the Great Hall overflowing with students, many of whom weren't wearing Hogwarts uniforms. At the front of the hall, Albus Dumbledore stood next to a bloody great flaming cup. He was holding something in his hand as he called out, "Harry Potter!"
"Where? Where is he?" Lily shouted, causing everyone in the hall to turn to see her and her husband standing at the back of the room. The mass of people froze seeing spectres of the past. Minerva McGonagall gasped as she stood. Filius Flitwick had tears running down his face. Befuddlement graced the visage of Albus Dumbledore for the first time since he was fourteen. Severus Snape's expression was carefully blank.
From her left, a boy wearing Gryffindor robes slowly approached. He could only be Harry as he was almost a carbon copy of James.
"Mum? Dad?" he asked in a tremulous voice.
For everyone else on the planet, being near a Dementor is something to be avoided at all costs. For Harry Potter the first time it happened, exposure to a Dementor's aura and the corresponding side effects was one of the most wonderful experiences of his life. The emotional voice of a woman who could only be his mother had told him, "I love you, Harry. Mummy loves you forever and ever. I love you. Your Daddy loves you Harry. Mummy and Daddy won't be around, but we love you forever and ever."
He almost hugged the Dementor who tried to Kiss him.
When he told Hermione what he heard, she burst into tears of happiness for him as she engulfed him in a hug. "I'm so happy for you, Harry. I know what that has to mean for you."
Ron had looked uncomfortable with the whole thing as he sat there eating the chocolate given him by Remus. Eventually, Harry turned away from his redheaded friend..
At the end of the year, after the ordeal in the Shrieking Shack, Harry and Sirius took a moment to talk.
"If you'd like, you could come live with me."
"I'd like that above all. Well…"
"Above everything except having your parents back, yeah?" Sirius had gently observed.
"Nothing to be sorry about at all." Placing a comforting hand on his godson's shoulder, Padfoot told him, "Your parents loved you very much. Never doubt that."
"I know." At Sirius' surprised expression, Harry explained about his Dementor induced memory.
"Thank the Lord for small favours," Sirius muttered. "Come on."
Later, after traveling through time to save his godfather, Harry wasn't nearly so grateful for the existence of Dementors.
Now his greatest wish was coming true.
The woman with auburn hair opened her arms as tears brimmed over. Unable to speak, she nodded as she smiled wetly. A quick check with the man saw a wide smile, "Hullo, Pronglet."
He ran to them. Engulfed in his mother's arms, surrounded by his father's embrace, Harry didn't hear the roar of the students, nor the professors taking control of the situation. When they finally broke their three way embrace, Harry was startled to see the Great Hall nearly empty.
Turning, he saw Hermione standing a few feet away, her face bright with happy tears. The professors hung back a bit. Motioning to his bushy haired friend, Harry turned to his parents. "Mum, Dad," a big smile broke over his face. Absently, he told them, "I never thought I'd say that for real." When Hermione wrapped her hand around Harry's arm, he glanced at her before introducing her to his parents.
"Mum, Dad, this is my best friend, Hermione."
With a grin, Prongs asked, "Are you sure she's not your girlfriend?"
Both teens blushed tomato red. Lily poked her husband in the ribs, "Leave them alone, James." Turning back to the teens, she said, "It's very nice to meet you Hermione. Despite my lout of a husband, I look forward getting to know you."
"It's nice to meet you as well, Mr and Mrs Potter. I've heard so much about you," Hermione replied shyly.
In a wry tone, Lily replied, "Don't believe a word Sirius tells you. Remus you can believe, but Padfoot is an inveterate liar."
They all chuckled at her dry humour before Harry asked his bushy haired friend, "Where's Ron?" He glanced this way and that, looking about for their redheaded friend.
Her expression tightening, Hermione evaded, "Well, he…he headed back to the Tower when the professors dismissed us."
With a smile, James observed, "But you stayed."
Without thought, Hermione countered, "Of course. It's Harry." She spoke as if it was a truth of her existence. The sun rose in the east, set in the west and she would do anything for Harry Potter.
Lily and James exchanged wide smiles.
From outside their circle, they heard a throat clearing. Turning in unison, the foursome saw Albus Dumbledore standing a discreet distance away with Minerva McGonagall at his side. Behind them was Alastor Moody and a few others that Harry thought were from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang.
"Hello James, Lily. It's very good to see you. If you would…" Albus gestured with his hand to the side.
"Hello, Albus," James greeted. "Give us a few minutes to catch up with our son and his friend. We'll be at your disposal for a discussion after that."
"Actually, I need Harry."
Confused, Lily asked, "Harry? Why Harry?"
Rolling his eyes, Harry groaned. "The bloody tournament."
"What's going on?" Lily asked.
"Harry, if you would follow Professor McGonagall," Dumbledore told his student, ignoring the witch.
"Now wait a goddam minute!" Lily demanded with heat. Harry's eyes bugged in surprise as he was forcibly reminded that his mother had a short fuse.
"Someone's in trouble," James sang softly. Catching a glance at his Dad, Harry saw a smile dancing on the edge of Prongs' mouth. A warm feeling stole over The Boy-Who-Lived as he watched his mother stand up for him. He decided to enjoy the experience.
"My son is going nowhere until you tell me what is going on here, Albus Dumbledore."
The only trace of peevishness that showed on the old man's face was a tightening about his eyes. But then again, Harry considered, with fifteen pounds of hair on his head, it was hard to read the Headmaster's expressions.
"To sum up: the TriWizard competition is being conducted this year. Hogwarts is hosting and you walked in just as your son was selected as a fourth competitor by the Goblet of Fire. Unfortunately, it's a binding magical contract. We need to get to the bottom of what's happening."
"Fourth competitor," Lily deadpanned.
James placed a soothing hand on his wife's shoulder. In response, she took a deep breath, calming significantly. Picking up the thread, James turned to his son, "Harry, did you enter the contest?"
Turning back to the Headmaster, James told him, "It appears your cup is faulty. Harry didn't enter."
Turning to Harry, Dumbledore asked, "Did you ask an older student to enter your name?"
Rolling his eyes, Harry began to answer in the negative when his Dad interjected, "That would fall under the heading of 'entering' which I already asked my son, Albus. It appears you have some work to do to release my son from your tournament."
A very uptight man, who Harry recognized as Barty Crouch, spoke up in a monotone, "He must compete. He's been selected by the Goblet of Fire."
"Bloody, buggering shite," James muttered to himself. "That's impossible," he told Crouch and the assembled Professors. "The most important aspect of magic is intent; we all know that. So, if my son had no intent to ever enter the tournament, then his selection is due to spellwork, not an enchanted object. Any spell cast can be broken. I suggest you call the best cursebreakers you can find, as I expect this resolved by tomorrow evening."
Harry was watching his father in awe. He'd been told about Prongs of the Marauders. It seemed the playful side of James was the facet of his Dad about which everyone wanted to tell him. As such, he had an image in his head of his father as a happy go lucky fellow who went along with the tide, joking and laughing the entire time.
That image had overlooked the fact that James had been Head Boy and successfully wooed Lily Evans. No moron could accomplish both those tasks. The authoritative and confident man who stood in front of Harry inspired respect and even a hint of awe. James immediately became Harry's hero; the man whom he wanted to imitate as he got older.
Shaking his head, Dumbledore began to refute James when Lily piped up again, "It's very simple, Albus. Harry is a minor. We are his parents. I'm assuming he has no form signed by Sirius which would allow him to compete in this tournament?" she looked to Harry as she asked. When he shook his head in negation, she added, "Then as his parents and rightful guardians, we shall not allow him to compete. Fix it." Her green-eyed gaze bored into the old man's, "Fix it now."
Harry was nearly delirious with happiness. He didn't even realize it, but he'd been holding Hermione's hand for the previous ten minutes. At this point, he was squeezing her hand so hard her fingers were white. Smiling at her friend, she couldn't feel a hint of indignation at the elder Potters' treatment of the Headmaster. She didn't want her friend to compete any more than his parents did.
"We shall endeavour, to…"
"You shall not endeavour to do anything, Albus. You shall remove Harry from your tournament," Lily countered forcefully.
"Go, Mum," Harry whispered. She glanced at her son, flashing him a smile.
With a gregarious grin for all, James stepped forward, engulfing Minerva in an embrace, "Minerva, it's so good to see you. It feels like just the day before yesterday you were over having dinner with us. In fact, it was just the day before yesterday for us." Turning, he continued his course of misdirection as he clapped Flitwick on the back, "Filius! Good to see you too. "
Glaring at the silent, glowering Severus Snape, James affected a broad smile, "Snivellus! You still haven't bathed! Good Lord man, aren't you chapped by now?" Harry and Hermione both had to turn away to avoid laughter. Hermione actually shoved her hand in her mouth to stifle the giggles that were bubbling up from deep inside her.
"Well, we must away. We're going to catch up with Harry." Turning his family and Hermione toward the door of the Great Hall, James flung over his shoulder, "We'll probably be taking Harry home for a week. Maybe Hermione too. I'm sure that will be acceptable, Albus? "Not waiting for a response, James said, "Good, good. Well, goodnight all." A deft wand movement left one of the professors with an 'I'm Back!' present.
The incensed cry of "POTTER!" from Severus Snape caused James to cackle at his own genius.
"What?" Lily asked without even looking at her husband.
"Just turned his robes pink."
"Man-child," she muttered with an affectionate smile.
They turned the corner out into the entry hall when Harry burst into laughter. As Hermione and Lily smiled at James, Harry exclaimed, "That was brilliant, Dad!"
Puffing up his chest like a peacock, James drawled, "Yes, yes, I know. I am the famous Prongs of the Marauders, as you well know."
Lily shook her head fondly as Harry and Hermione laughed. "Come on, let's chat for a bit. We've some catching up to do!" James wrapped his arm around Lily's waist before heading off to some secret lair he knew of, leaving Harry and Hermione to follow.
At the idea of 'catching up', Harry's face fell. Hermione put her arm about his shoulders, fully aware of the reason for his upset. "It'll be alright, Harry. They love you."
While they waited for their past selves to emerge from the Whomping Willow passage the previous year, Harry had hinted to Hermione that his aunt and uncle had abused him. She didn't press, knowing how private and reserved her best friend was. Over the summer, she did some reading and discovered that many victims of abuse have a twisted sense of guilt regarding abuse. They feel that they deserved the punches, slaps, kicks and so on.
She'd cried for a full day after she finished her research. There had been a long talk with her Mum afterwards. Dentists, by practise are not usually involved in child abuse cases. But, since they are health care providers, Dentists are bound by law to report any situation they know about. Both Alice and Steven Granger had been to the lengthy training as well as their yearly refresher training.
With Harry's dubious status in the mundane world combined with his celebrity status in the magical world, Alice and Hermione came to the same conclusion: there wasn't much they could do for Harry.
With a humorous glint in her eye, Alice had then asked her daughter, "So, how long have you fancied your best friend?"
Shaking her head to banish the memories as they followed her best friend's parents, Hermione heard the echo of herself reply, "I don't know, but I think I love him."
Giving the object of her affections a tug, the teens followed the twenty something parents to have a chat.
His head in his hands, James recounted, "You lived in Petunia's cupboard until you were eleven, were told we were drunkards who died in an auto wreck, downed a troll, faced a Cerberus – twice mind – got through some demented obstacle course that didn't stop a firstie only to face Voldemort again."
"Well, yeah. But I made the Quidditch team my first year."
With a broad smile across his weary face, James agreed, "Yeah, you did. Good job. You do know that Quidditch is the pinnacle life, right?"
Harry smiled broadly, "Of course." Both witches rolled their eyes in perfect time, causing Prongs and Pronglet to break into laughter.
James stood before solemnly placing his right hand over his heart, "Puddlemere United, Forever Strong."
"Puddlemere, Forever True," Harry replied.
The bright smile on Prongs' face seemed to illuminate the room, "You follow United?"
Shrugging, Harry looked at his tatty trainers, "Well, last year, Professor Lupin told me that you had a bit of a following for the team, so I started following them. You know, kind of a way to be close to you when…"
Sombrely, James finished, "When I wasn't there."
With a harsh whisper, Harry countered the implied guilt in his father's tone, "It's not your fault, Dad." Casting about to find a new topic, Harry blurted, "I've the cloak and the Map."
A confused expression crossed James face, "How did you get the cloak? We had it with us at the cottage when Voldemort attacked."
Shrugging, Harry told his father, "Dunno. I got it from the Headmaster for Christmas my first year. The note said that you'd left it with him."
James snorted, "Not bloody likely. That thing is ancient and a family heirloom. It's been passed down from Lord to heir for over a thousand years."
Ever since Harry and Hermione had explained about Harry's scar and Harry's being The Boy-Who-Lived, Lily had been silently weeping off and on. At this natural break in the conversation, she stood from her chair, made her way to Harry before sitting next to him on the couch. Having an idea what was coming, Hermione scooted away.
Lily threw her arms around her son, sobbing in her remorse and regret. Bubbling up from deep inside her, she repeated, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry I wasn't there."
Relaxing into the embrace, Harry patted his mother's back, "It's alright Mum. You did the best you could."
Sniffling back her tears, Lily sat back, wiping her eyes. Rummaging in her pockets for a tissue, she mumbled a thank you to Hermione who provided the necessary handkerchief.
"Regrets later," Lily announced. "So Sirius was in Azkaban the whole time?"
"'Til last year. That's when he broke out."
James burst into hysterical laughter while Lily just stared. "He broke out of Azkaban."
"You're telling the story out of order, Harry," Hermione mock scolded.
"Yeah, I guess we should cover second year."
'There's more?" Lily asked, her eyes narrowing.
It was Hermione who laughed, "We're just getting started."
It was well past midnight when the teens finished their stories. James and Lily exchanged a 'look' known to parents worldwide. Lily's face began to redden, "I don't know who I'm going to kill first: my 'dear' sister, her pig of a husband or Albus Dumbledore. What the hell was that old man thinking when he put you there?"
"He said that your sacrifice powered blood wards which kept me safe."
Rolling her eyes, Lily speared her son with a 'look' known to children worldwide, "Harry. I didn't die. How could my sacrifice have done anything?"
"Oh. Man, I'm tired."
"Anyway, what about Padfoot? I think it's safe to say he didn't perform admirably as your godfather," James asked darkly.
Harry spoke up through a yawn, "Dad, put yourself in his shoes. You've just found out that he'd been killed and Peter had betrayed you all. What would you do?"
That sobered the elder Potters before they sighed, deflating. "I'd go spare."
"I'm still going to whack him in the back of the head, though," Lily declared with a smile, James chuckling at her. It was obvious to Hermione that Lily was deliberately changing the subject. Most likely, the elder Potters would be revisiting this topic in the not so distant future.
"Must be an inside joke," Hermione observed to Harry.
"Is this what it's like?" Harry asked in a near whisper.
"What having a family is like?"
Hermione shut her eyes for a long second before one lone tear escaped. "Yes, Harry. This is what a family is like."
"I think I'll like this."
Using her free hand to wipe away the traitorous tear, she noticed how close she and her friend were sitting. During the course of the evening, they'd unconsciously scooted closer until they were nearly sitting in each other's lap. They started to hold hands during the Chamber of Secrets recitation and continued through their explanation of third year with the 'Dangerous Sirius Black' after them.
"Alright," James announced, "It's late and we all need sleep. For us, we had a big fight with Voldemort today and you two have had a long night. We'll kip in a guest suite, you two head back to the tower. Pack a bag in the morning and bring it with you to breakfast. We'll head to Rowan Hill in the morning."
Lily stood, taking her son in her arms for a long embrace. "I love you," she whispered.
A rattling breath from Harry was all the answer he could muster, but she knew what he meant.
Lily passed Harry off to his Dad for a few words. While the male Potters were busy, the petite auburn haired witch hooked her arm through Hermione's, leading The Smartest Witch of the Age out of the room.
"So, how long have you been in love with my son?" Lily asked with an impish smile.
Startled, Hermione glanced back over her shoulder. Seeing Harry and James in a 'guy moment' relieved her, as the green-eyed seeker hadn't heard his mother's comment. Tugging Lily forward down the hallway, she gained some room between the girls and the boys.
With a remorseful expression, Lily squeezed Hermione's arm, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry, it's just so blatantly obvious that the two of you fancy each other and since you're of the smarter gender, I thought…" she trailed off in a leading way.
"You think Harry fancies me?" Hermione asked in an hopeful yet fearful whisper.
"Sweetie, he's completely smitten. I don't think he realizes it, though. He is male after all."
Hermione couldn't help an amused snort. "I think I'm going to like you, Mrs Potter." They were quiet for a minute before Hermione explained, "I do love him, but right now isn't a good time. You and your husband just came back, this tournament…" she waved her hand to mean 'life'. "It's all so much, he can't afford to spend the time with me."
Frowning a little, Lily asked, "Isn't that his choice?"
Taken aback with all sails flapping, Hermione just stared.
"Look, one of the things that boiled my blood about James in our early years here was his arrogance . If you ask him, he'll tell you that he was a berk. World class. The big part that bugged me was disregarded other people's feelings entirely." Turning the oh-so-familiar green-eyed gaze on The Smartest Witch of the Age, Lily declared, "Let Harry choose his own path. Do you want him?"
"Then go get him. It's obvious that you're good for each other. He's kept you alive while you've kept him alive the last three years or so."
"Thanks Mrs Potter."
With a broad smile, she engulfed her son's not so distant in the future paramour in a warm embrace, "Call me Lily."
Harry was quiet on the way back to Gryffindor Tower. Unable to stand the unspoken tension, Hermione asked, "Harry, what's bothering you?"
Surprised, Hermione didn't say anything for a minute. She'd expected one of a thousand things about his parents to prey on his mind, not the TriWizard. "What about it?" she asked.
Turning to her, he gave her an amused glance over the rims of his glasses. Hermione almost lost all self-control and pounced on him. Ravishment seemed so incredibly inviting in that moment.
"You didn't say anything, but I'm betting that Ron had a fit that I got selected."
Sighing, she was too tired to dissemble. "Yes, he did. Your parents arriving from the great beyond and drawing more attention to you was like petrol on the fire, too."
In an incredulous voice, Harry wondered, "You'd think he'd be happy for me that my parents returned from the dead."
Unable and unwilling to dredge up a defence for their redheaded friend, Hermione wrapped an arm about Harry's shoulder, an action she'd been doing more often since the beginning of the fall term. Part of her hoped Harry would notice soon, while another part of her was terrified he would notice.
In a seeming unconscious movement, Harry wrapped his arm around her waist. She sighed to herself, wishing that his action was more deliberate; indicative of the attitude to which she was most open and receptive.
What Hermione didn't know was that boys are always VERY aware where girls' body parts are in relation to their own.
In a comforting silence, they made their way up the grand staircase. They both smiled when they heard a far off shout, "PRONGS! WHERE ARE YOU, YOU STUPID SON OF A BITCH?"
"Sirius must be here," Hermione whispered. Looking to Harry, she saw his smile was as wide as her own.
"He'll be so happy," Harry observed. "I really think he hated himself for Peter's betrayal."
When Harry's hand tightened its grip on her hip, she turned to him. Shocked, she watched small tears trickle down his cheeks.
"Harry?" she whispered as she turned to face him.
"I don't want to die. This Tournament…Voldemort…I've too much to lose." Looking at her, he searched her face as if memorizing it. Tentatively, he reached to caress her cheek, but stopped halfway. Unconsciously, Hermione leaned into the touch, causing Harry's warm hand to cup her face. He opened his mouth to continue, but thought better of it. Gently, Harry wrapped his arm about his best friend's waist again. Together, they made their way back to their dormitories for a well deserved rest.
Meanwhile, back in the guest quarters…
Prongs, Padfoot and Moony were in a three way hug, Moony and Padfoot sobbing as they held their friend. Lily stood off to the side, emotionally swamped. Reuniting with Harry, meeting Hermione, hearing them recount their son's overwhelming life and now Padfoot and Moony.
"I'm sorry, Prongs. I'm so, so sorry…" Sirius kept repeating through his tears.
Lily narrowed her eyes slightly. Sirius had quite a bit for which he should be sorry, if truth be told. The auburn haired witch believed that her son and his best friend most likely understated and even wholesale omitted some events of his growing up. When pressed about life on Privet Drive, Harry evaded the question.
They abused him. My son. Petunia abused my son when Sirius should have been there for him.
The thought raged like an inferno in her head. There was also something wrong with their account of Harry's second year. The parseltongue ability was a surprise, but given James strong ties to the Black family, it wasn't unexpected. The Black's had more metamorphmagi, parseltongues and animagi than any other family in recent history. This freak of birth combined with their mania for pureblood marriage fed the Black Family's overinflated sense of superiority. Since Harry's fraternal grandmother was a Black, it really didn't faze either of the elder Potters that Harry had this unique ability. However, she knew that the student body must have reacted badly. In that sense, Hogwarts was like a village: suspicious, petty, superstitious and cruel. The glance the teens had exchanged when she asked about any bullying only cemented her guess. It must have been bad.
Centring her vision on her husband and their friends, Lily's smile drooped. Sirius was literally on his knees begging James for forgiveness. Knew it well, she did, that James could hold a grudge. Sirius knew it as well.
With his expression set, James met Lily's gaze. She knew what he wanted. I'll forgive him only if you want me to his gaze told her. With a hint of a sigh, she nodded. Sirius was many things, but first and foremost he was family. Family forgives. Prongs' expression softened before he placed his hand on Sirius' bowed head.
"I forgive you, Sirius. We both do."
Turning to Remus, James' face dropped. "I'm sorry we didn't have faith in you, Moony. I hope you can forgive me."
Repeating James' action from before, Remus placed his scarred hands on his brother's head. "I forgive you, James." Half turning to Lily, he added, "I forgive both of you."
Lily gave the Lycanthrope gave an appreciative nod. Remus had always been a good man.
Remus and James led the still crying Sirius to the couch where the Prisoner of Azkaban slowly regained his composure.
"What's been going on here?" James asked his brothers. "Listening to Harry, it's been a warzone."
Lily chimed in, "The Philosopher's Stone, a fucking Basilisk and last year you," she nodded to Sirius. Shaking her head to forestall an exclamation, "I know you were innocent, but what if it was Dolohov who escaped and then was hunting Harry? He would have got him. Now they're trying to rope him into a goddam tournament."
Remus chuckled as he and Padfoot shared a smile. "I've missed you, Lily," Moony observed. "To answer your question, I don't know. I was kept in the dark about Harry's whereabouts until I literally woke up next to him on the train to here last fall." Frowning as he considered her question, "Things are a bit strange, though."
"A bit strange? Moony, you still have the capacity for amazing understatement."
As everyone smiled in reply to James' gibe, Lily yawned widely. "Alright, tomorrow we call the DMLE and clear up the Secret Keeper business. We're taking Harry and his friend Hermione home with us for a week or so. He'll need support from someone familiar." Lily turned her gaze on 'her boys' before declaring, "And you two are coming as well. No ifs, ands or buts."
"Yes, Lady Richmond," Sirius and Remus chimed in unison.
Groaning, Hermione rolled over. "Crookshanks, shut up!" she growled at the purring beast who was perched on her pillow. Cracking open her eyes, she saw that the clock read seven thirty AM. Time to get up.
Ruefully, she scratched her familiar's ears. "Thanks anyway you annoying fur ball," she scolded affectionately.
Twenty minutes, a shower, a quick brush of her hair and one packing spell later found Hermione traipsing down the stairs to the common room. Last night she was sure that Harry was a heartbeat from kissing her. Hopeful that his mum was right, she was going to be optimistic that things would evolve into some serious snogging soon. She felt like she might self-combust otherwise.
She found Harry pacing at the foot of the girls steps, his packed satchel over his shoulder. Smiling, she asked, "Anxious much?"
Smiling brightly at her appearance he stuck his tongue out at her before hurrying to the portrait hole, "Come on," he urged.
"Harry, slow down." Catching up to him, she wrapped her arm about him, nearly giggling in delight when he automatically did the same to her. "They'll be there and it will all be fine. Take it easy."
Taking a deep breath, he nodded to himself. "Right. They didn't disappear. It wasn't a dream."
Smiling she lay her head on his shoulder for quick moment. It doesn't get much better than this. Turning into the Great Hall, they saw the Gryffindor table empty save for one person.
"Professor Lupin?" asked Hermione in surprise.
Rolling his eyes, Moony of the Marauders beckoned the teens to sit across from him. After taking a sip of his tea, he told Harry, "Your parents are meeting with Minister Fudge and Director Bones to clear up the Secret Keeper situation. Sirius is probably under the influence of Veritaserum right now," he finished by glancing at his battered pocket watch.
"We'll be leaving when they're done?" Harry asked with poorly concealed anticipation.
Smiling, Moony nodded at the full plate Hermione placed in front of her best friend. "Eat up, Little One. You'll need your strength for the day. Moony, Padfoot and Prongs are together again."
Harry's wide smile beamed across the table while Hermione asked, "Little One?"
After a momentary pause, Remus replied, "That's why I used to call Harry when he was a baby."
Feeling a bit bold, Harry replied, "Thanks Uncle Moony." Hermione's heart warmed to watch the friendly and easy interaction between the two men.
Moony smiled even wider, "Eat up."
Things in the Headmaster's office were far from friendly, though.
Before turning in around one AM, James had made a quick Floo call to Maturin, Tonks and Aubrey, his solicitors. He literally scared Stephen Maturin out of his bed. Once the man calmed, James gave him the thirty second explanation along with summoning the man to Hogwarts for an early morning meeting.
Falling into bed next to his sleeping wife, James had to smile. Life was completely arse upside down, but his little family was still together. His last thoughts were of Wormtail. Prongs' dreams were of decidedly darker nature than he intended.
Waking at six, he and Lily showered – together – before strolling up to the Headmaster's office. Fortunately, they bumped into Minerva McGonagall on the second floor. It was a meeting for which James wanted to have a bit of privacy.
"Good morning, Minerva," James greeted her while executing a perfect sweeping bow. "Your looks are in the bloom of spring, giving joyful pause to all who meet you."
He did not expect to be hugged firmly by his old head of house while she cried on his shoulder.
"I know I'm handsome, but my wife is right here, Minerva."
Wide eyed, he looked over the emotional Scot's shoulder to his wife for direction. She only shrugged. Gently holding the woman, he patted her back for a moment before she calmed.
Wiping her eyes, Minerva told him, "I'm sure the both of you will experience that and more in the near future."
"Sirius almost wet himself last night," Lily allowed with more than a bit of humour.
Under more control, Minerva embraced Lily. "I've missed you both so much." Pulling back, she wrapped an arm about each of her former students' waist. "Your son is a good and strong young man. You should be proud of him."
Both Potters nodded at Minerva's praise. "We are. We spent four or five hours last night talking," Lily commented. Narrowing her eyes, she nearly glared at her old friend, "It seems that he's had a few adventures here."
Sighing, Minerva knew exactly to what Lily was referring. Taking in James' stiff attitude and Lily's glare, she waved her hand in a supplicating motion, "I've done everything I could for him. True, I made a significant mistake his first year, but I've done what I could for him. I can't tell you how many times I healed him during his youth with those people." The last words were mere hisses as the older woman's face contorted in anger. It was obvious to Prongs that his old teacher was desperate for absolution. It was a worrying trend that everyone they knew kept asking for forgiveness because they failed to support Harry.
"I warned Albus. I told him they were the worst sort of muggles. I warned him it was lunacy holding the Stone in the castle. I urged him to take action during the 'Heir of Slytherin fiasco' and then there was last year...What a mess."
Shaking her head, Minerva's gaze dropped. "I'm sorry. I've failed you and your son." Dropping her arms from around the Potters' waists, she moved to leave.
James' hand on her arm stopped her, "Thank you for apologizing. We know how hard it is to go against Albus when he has his mind set on something." Glancing at his wife, he nodded to her, signifying his forgiveness of their old friend.
Lily embraced Minerva again, "We forgive you. Let's go talk to the culpable party."
James plastered a reconciliatory smile on his face, but inside he was in turmoil His parents had been very old when he was born. He was called the 'miracle baby' at St Mungo's when he was born to a mother who was sixty four. Nevertheless, both his parents had impressed upon him the importance of family. "Family First," his father had intoned more than one time.
Fuming a bit, it seemed to James that everyone they knew had failed to support Harry in the way that the boy had needed. Internally he winced when his conscience needled him, Even You Have Failed Your Son. Nevertheless, there was a long list of people who'd failed young Harry Potter and it was headed by Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. Below the man with far too many names was Sirius Black, Minerva McGonagall, Remus Lupin (though he never had a chance to look out for Harry) and, of course, Petunia and Vernon Dursley. Wormtail, the traitorous vermin, was below consideration.
"What happened to Frank and Alice?" James heard himself ask. Alice had been named Harry's godmother, as James was Neville's godfather.
Minerva sighed before recounting the story of the torture and derangement of James and Lily's friends. "…they were the last casualties of the war."
"No," Lily countered, her face hard. "Harry has been the last casualty of the war and he continues to suffer to this day."
They were quiet the rest for the rest of the trip. Eventually, they found themselves in the Headmaster's very crowded office. The Minister for Magic, the Head of the DMLE, the Head Auror, Stephen Maturin, Sirius Black, Albus Dumbledore and, strangely, Severus Snape were waiting.
Ignoring his childhood nemesis, James strode up to the Minister, "Minister Fudge, good to see you. Last we met, you were a Team Leader in the Accidental Magical Reversal Squad. How times change…"
"Yes, yes, however did this come about?" Fudge asked with more than a trace of nervousness, while darting his eyes to Rufus Scrimgeour in an unspoken plea for protection. It was obvious to James that the formalities needed to be dispensed with first.
Rolling his eyes at the man, he asked the room, "Veritaserum or Vow?"
Scrimgeour shuffled forward, "Veritaserum will be sufficient, my Lord." Indicating a seat, he asked, "If you would, please."
James and Lily sat where they, one by one, both affirmed their identities, the identity of the Secret Keeper and the method of their 'revival' from death. "As you can see," James heard Lily say, "We never died I'm surprised no one checked our wills. The seals were tied to our life force."
Frowning, Dumbledore explained, "It's so expensive to make the wax that very few people actually perform that charm."
Sirius and James exchanged an exasperated look before Padfoot explained, "Albus, all the Ancient and Noble families perform the charm. It's required for succession of the line."
Interjecting, Amelia Bones got the meeting back on track, "Be that as it may, Lord Blackmoor," she addressed Sirius, "Would you be willing to give a statement under Veritaserum concerning the events that took place on November first of eighty one?"
"In Manchester? The thirteen murdered muggles?"
Sirius nodded before taking James' recently vacated seat. Five minutes later, Scrimgeour was rolling up the dictated statements of the Potters as well as Sirius. Fudge, Dumbledore and Bones were crowded around the Headmaster's desk to craft and sign out an official exoneration of Sirius coupled with a press release informing the public of the 'miracle return' of the Potters.
James and Sirius approached Stephen Maturin while Lily and Minerva chatted about Harry's academic performance to date. The Irish legal expert was a short scrawny man whose sallow complexion made most residents of the British Isles appear to be tanned in comparison. "Stephen," James greeted the man as they shook hands. "We'll be going to Rowan Hill shortly. Please get our affairs in order post haste. If you need me, you can owl. We're going to lock down the wards to keep out the riff-raff. The public is going to be rabid when this gets out."
Nodding, Maturin blinked rapidly as he told his old friend's son, "It's good to have you back, my Lord."
Turning to Sirius, the barrister got a predatory gleam in his eye, "And you my Lord?"
Growling, Sirius instructed, "Take the Ministry for all you can."
They all turned at the roar of the Floo as Bones and Scrimgeour left the office. Fudge nodded amiably at the newly restored Subjects of the Crown before departing. Stephen gave James, Lily and Sirius a short bow, "I shall be in contact soon regarding everything." Kissing Lily's hand, he bid them adieu before departing.
As one, the amiable smiles fell from James, Lily and Sirius' faces. Turning to Dumbledore, James spoke for all three, "You betrayed us."
Taken aback, the Headmaster stared.
"You failed to ensure Sirius had a trial. You placed my son with persons who were specifically eliminated from custody consideration in our wills. You repeatedly generated or allowed to flourish situations where my son was in mortal danger. By our count, Harry has been in mortal peril at least six times in the last three years, and that's just what he and Hermione told us about. I'm sure there is more. I'm also sure that you haven't told Harry about the prophecy, despite the repeated attempts on his life by Voldemort."
The icy, accusatory tone was so different from the jovial James Potter that most in the room had to check that it was James who was speaking and not his more mercurial wife.
Lily's eyes flashed, "If I find that my suspicions are true and my sister did abuse my son…I'm going to take it out on you, Albus."
James nearly smiled when he saw Dumbledore reflexively grab for his wand. Nearly smiled, but not in actuality.
"I'd just as soon kill you now, if I could," Sirius deadpanned. All the years of Azkaban stood in his dead grey eyes. Haunted and empty, Sirius Black stared at Dumbledore in a way reminiscent of a man who has nothing to lose and therefore has no fear.
"Three things have saved your life this day, Albus Dumbledore. First, I doubt I could defeat you in a duel. Despite your behaviour, you are still a mighty wizard. Second, you aren't important anymore. You may have insinuated yourself into my son's life, but that ends now. Expect to be relegated to your rightful place: Headmaster. Lastly," he turned form the old man as he took his wife's arm while shepherding his friend from the room. "Lastly, I've a son for whom I need to be an example. I don't want him to resort to violence to resolve difficulties." Glaring at the old man, the Earl of Richmond added, "No matter how satisfying that violence may be. I'll just have to take you apart legally. Expect my solicitor to call on you."
Sirius went through the door as James held it open. Lily moved to leave when Snape called out, "Lily…" He reached with one hand, but stopped short of the redheaded witch's shoulder.
Stopping, the witch replied without looking, "What do you want, Death Eater?"
James glared at the odious man, as he seemed to crumple from a physical blow. Snape's mouth moved twice before Lily left of the room, James following. Moving quickly down the steps, he heard his wife mutter, "I need my son. Let's get the hell out of here."
1. I own nothing. My thanks to all who review this chapter. Story status, as always, can be found on my Author's page on FanFiction(dot)net.
2. Recommendation for the chapter is Harry Potter and the Dream Come True by Grand Admiral Chelli. It's an incredibly funny fic that was one of many inspirations for this little tale.
3. This is the first time I've ever given Voldemort any serious dialogue. I can totally see him using the royal We when referring to himself, can't you? I also blended the canon Voldemort and canon Bellatrix. Voldemort in the books is very Hitler-like: his insanity shows up in his tirades and overall action. Bella is a loony. I like the idea of Voldiepants being a bit loony too.
4. I read in a FF somewhere that 'any chapped ass monkey can start a story; it's finishing it that's hard'. Amen. I seem to hit a wall around 125k words with my stories where it becomes painful to finish them. Loss of interest and sometimes utter boredom with writing the story are the usual suspects. It happened with Stand, Partners, Harry and Gabi and End and the Beginning. I've finished Partners and have the end in sight on E&B and H&G so hopefully this little idea that's been burbling about for a couple years won't slow them down. Hopefully. Hell, I'm not being paid for any of it so who cares?
5. Yep, jettisoned Ron early. Gotta do it. Can't stand him in any way, shape or form.
6. In this fic, I'm playing about with perspective. In Partners, I stuck to Daphne's perspective and boy was it hard sometimes. Here, I'm going to shift perspectives, but try to stay with the POV of the person who is not central to the scene. It's an exercise in descriptive writing for me. Let me know if it works or is distracting. I won't change (ha!), but it would be interesting to know your thoughts. Thanks