Chapter One: Grief and Hope
James knew he was dead, but where was he now? He looked down at his hands; they were white and cloud like, but they felt solid. He looked around and saw he was standing on a flat, white surface. He could not see an end in any direction. It was like that flat, white surface went on forever in every direction.
"If I am dead," James thought, "then is this the afterlife?"
He did not feel any different, but he didn't used to be made of cloud.
"I know that look," came a voice from behind James, "you are quite dead and this is not the afterlife. This is Limbo."
James turned around to face the unknown voice and found that it was not unknown at all.
"You were in the prophet just last week," said James unsure as to what was going on, "they said that you were killed by Voldemort himself."
"The prophet is quite right," said the wizard, "and please don't use the name."
"If we are as dead as you say we are, then what does it matter?"
"Old habits die hard I guess," said the wizard.
James nodded and added, "What do you mean 'This is Limbo'?"
"I mean that though we are quite dead this is not the after-life," said the wizard, "this is not our final destination. You have three choices—"
But both men forgot what they were talking about as a woman appeared out of nowhere beside James.
"James," Lily said, flustered, "but I saw...you were...oh."
Realization hit Lily as she stared at James.
"So were both dead then," James said, no question in his voice.
"Yes," said the wizard, "yes we are all quite dead, but as I was saying—"
Lily had started to sob so hard that neither her husband nor the little wizard could tell what she was saying. The only word they were able to decipher was 'Harry.'
"What happened?" James said as he put an arm around her.
"I pleaded with him. Begged him to take me instead, but he only laughed," Lily half sobbed into her hands.
Lily was crying harder than ever now. James had his arm around her. He was rubbing his hand up and down her arm in an effort to calm her.
"Then I tried to shield Harry with my body, but he pointed his wand at me and...and..."
"Now you're here," James finished her sentence for her.
"As touching as this all is," said the wizard, impatience in his voice, "I am only here to inform you of your choices, and since I am sick of here I would like to get it over with."
"But you're dead," Lily said, looking up at him though glassy eyes, "Where could you possibly have to go?"
"That was what I was trying to tell this guy," the wizard said, jerking his head in James's direction, "when you showed up."
"Now you have three options," said the wizard, looking straight at them to make sure they were listening, "One: to forget about learning what lies beyond life and return to the earth as a ghost. Two: you may remain here to wait for news of your loved ones from the next person who dies, though I would like to add that this place gets very boring very fast. Or Three: you can go on."
"But once we've chosen, how do we do each of those things?" asked Lily.
"The act of choosing will do that," said the wizard, "Once you have no doubts in your mind as to what you want to do, it will just happen. However, no matter how much you want to leave this place, you cannot until you have passed on the instruction I have just given you to at least one person. This means that at least one person will remain in Limbo at all times."
Having finished delivering his message, the wizard turned his back on them to leave.
"Wait," cried Lily, "Do non-magical people come here too?"
The wizard turned to address Lily's question.
"Maybe," he said, "If their soul has any inclination towards wizards."
And with that he turned from them again and vanished though a door that neither James nor Lily could see, for they had not yet decided what they wanted to do.
James looked down at his tear-stained wife's face and realized that neither of them would be able to leave without knowing the fate of their only child.
"Let's wait for news of Harry," he said and Lily nodded.
While Lily and James waited for news, they went over and over the night of their murder. They soon realized that Voldemort's actions showed his true goal was Harry. They wondered with increased awe how he had survived the attack that had killed them. They didn't want him to be here, for they did not want him to die, but they longed to see him again and could not see how he would survive if Voldemort was after him.
They did not have long to wait; less than a fortnight later, someone died.
"Oh my God," squeaked an aged witch the moment she had appeared, "You're Lily and James Potter!"
"Yeah, and who are you?" said James.
"I am Sophie Abbot," said the witch, "and I know all about you of course. I've seen your statue."
"Statue?" asked Lily.
"Well, of course," Sophie cried as she threw her arms up in the air, "You wouldn't know. Your son vanquished You-Know-Who!"
"What?" Lily and James said together.
"Yeah, the curse that killed both of you failed to kill him. The curse rebounded upon the Dark Lord. And no one's seen or heard from him since!"
"I feel weak in the knees," Lily said and sat on the floor; there were no chairs here.
"I reckon your son's the most famous wizard ever to exist," Sophie said, and then added, "Wait a minute. You two are both dead. Where are we?"
Since Lily was still sitting on the floor, James recounted the choices that they had been given by the wizard when they had first arrived.
"Well, that's ruddy marvellous," were the first words out of Sophie's mouth, "I was worried that there might not be an afterlife at all. But it turns out I've got choices."
And with that Sophie turned away from them and vanished.
Over the next ten years many people came and went as Lily and James waited for more news. Though many people were just as excited to see the Potters as Sophie Abbot had been, and all of them were eager to talk about The Boy Who Lived, Lily and James did not get much more information from them than they had from Sophie Abbot.
They did, however, learn that the entire wizarding world believed that Sirius Black had betrayed their whereabouts to Voldemort. They of course knew that it had been Peter Pettigrew.
They felt horribly sorry for their friend, now locked in Azkaban, and wished that the truth was known. They knew that if he was considered a criminal he would never be allowed to be a surrogate father to Harry, but they wished he could be.
People coming and going were astonished to find out that Lily and James thought Sirius Black innocent. They tried to convince the Potters that Sirius was guilty, and many of them believed the Potters to be in denial. Lily and James never wavered in their story however.
When a witch named Kelley, who loved gossip, died they learned that Harry was living with Petunia's family. They were worried about how Harry would be treated by his aunt and uncle and wondered, since the entire wizarding world seemed to know their son's name, why one of them hadn't taken Harry in.
They learned very little about who their son had grown into, until the end of his first year at Hogwarts.
"W-who's t-t-there," came a quivering voice.
"Us," said Lily and James together.
The scared looking man saw their faces and screamed. He ran away from them as though he thought they were going to kill him. This reaction above anything else told Lily and James this man did not yet realize he was dead.
"We are not going to hurt you!" roared Lily as she ran after the newcomer.
"Of c-course you a-are," the man stuttered back at them as he ran.
"We can't hurt you," James roared in outrage at his completely pointless reaction. "We're all dead."
The man stopped.
He turned around, all thoughts of fear forgotten.
"We are all dead," James repeated, "and we will tell you what your choices are once you tell us why you ran from us, and anything you know about our son, Harry Potter."
"Why did you run from us?" Lily almost shrieked. After ten long years, she was desperate to hear news of her son.
Lily and James hadn't felt the last ten years pass like they would have on earth, but they still knew it had been a while.
The man looked too stunned to speak.
"What is your name?" James asked.
"Quirrell," the man said, "Professor Quirrell."
"So you taught at Hogwarts?" James asked.
Lily repeated her earlier question without shrieking, and this time received a response.
Quirrell could not face Lily or James; instead he spoke to his knees.
"I was s-scared that you kn-knew what I had t-tried to do t-to your son."
"And what exactly was that?" Lily said quite calmly, though the rage was written plainly across her face.
"I tried to k-k-kill him."
Lily and James looked at each other and then in unison glared at Quirrell with such power that Quirrell made to run from them again.
"That is no use," James said to Quirrell, "running will do you no good."
Quirrell just kept running. James wasn't even sure if Quirrell had heard him.
"This is pointless," James said and stopped running. He gestured for Lily to stop too.
They both stood there for a moment and then after a few seconds Quirrell ran right into them. James and Lily turned around to face Quirrell and said as one, "What did you do to our son?"
Quirrell just stammered incoherently.
"We can't hurt you because you are already dead. You can't leave here till we tell you how to do it," said James, "and we are not going to tell you anything—"
"Until you tell us everything!" Lily finished her husband's threat with even more hatred in her beautiful voice.
It took Lily and James quite a while to get the whole story out of Quirrell, because of his constant stuttering and his continued attempts to escape, but in the end they knew just as much about their son as Quirrell did.
They knew how well he was doing in his lessons. They knew that he had already made an enemy of Snape. They knew that he had made two wonderful friends, and most importantly they knew that he was good.
He had resisted Voldemort yet again and he had not only survived but stopped Voldemort from gaining more power. They were prouder of him than they could have thought possible.
Once they were sure that Quirrell had told them everything he knew, they gave him his options and he vanished without another word.
"I think he just did it to get away from us," James said gruffly. He had not liked Quirrell in the slightest and was very glad to be rid of him.
They learned very little in the next two years, though they did learn, from an old wizard with a walking stick, that Sirius Black had escaped from Azkaban. The wizard almost fell over from shock when he saw the looks of happiness on the Potters' faces and was even more shocked to hear that Sirius's supposed victims believed him to be innocent.
"If anyone could figure out how to break out of Azkaban," James said, half laughing, "it would be Sirius."
"What?" squawked the old wizard, dropping his walking stick, "but I thought you would have been upset. He did betray you after all."
"Nah, he didn't," said James, "it's the wizarding world that's betrayed him. I heard that he didn't even get a trial before they sent him off to Azkaban."
"Yeah, that's right," said the wizard, bending over to pick up his walking stick. He sounded dazed.
James and Lily recounted their tale of how their Secret-Keeper had been changed. Then they gave the wizard his choices and he vanished, looking one last time at the Potters as though questioning their sanity.