I apologize for any grammatical errors now. Most of my writing time comes in the half hour bus ride to work and the half hour bus ride home from work. I'm not the world's fastest writer on my phone, and I'm pretty sure I don't have to bemoan the iPhone autocorrect.


Peter looked exhausted.

Lily bit her bottom lip as she automatically moved the mashed potatoes in front of Remus. The last few months had been brutal on all of them, but Peter looked ragged. More so than the past six months could account for.

Glancing at James, she held her tongue when he shook his head. He was worried too, had spent half the previous night pacing their bedroom. Curling her fingers in her lap, she ran her thumb against the solid weight of her wedding band. Nearly a year into her marriage and the heavy band still grounded her. Marrying James had been wonderful, being married was complicated and messy.

The first six months has been near perfect as they moved into the cottage at Godric's Hollow. The cottage was one of the smaller Potter properties, but neither one of them had accumulated enough things to really make it necessary for more space. It also has the benefit of being relatively unknown outside of the family, which gave them a chance to be Lily and James, not Lord and Lady Potter.

It took two months to wrangle the cottage into shape. The roof had needed minor repairs that Remus and Peter had finally finished after an afternoon of watching James and Sirius attempt it. They were brilliant wizards but terrible carpenters. She'd spent most of that day cleaning out the garden, avoiding the ridiculousness that was occurring on her roof; debating ward schemes with Remus and letting Peter talk her out of planting a flower garden.

'I took herbology with you for seven years. I'll plant you the hardiest herbs available, and this time next year they'll mostly be dead! No flowers!'

There'd been a disaster of an afternoon attempting to teach everyone the finer points of muggle painting. Lily couldn't remember a day where she'd laughed so hard. Especially once Remus had started a paint war; then proceeded to win. She'd finally agreed to use spells to change the colors of the walls and cleaning spells were surprisingly a specialty of the guys. Sirius had laughed at her.

'The point of pranking is to not get caught; which means no evidence!'

There'd been quiet days. Lazy Sunday mornings spent sprawled out in their back yard, making plans. Dreaming. Long nights after a grueling day of charms work with her husband's talented hands and even more gifted mouth. Their first argument as a married couple that'd finally ended after a twenty-four hour stalemate with James recruiting the others to turn her house into a botanical garden. And a note tucked into the messenger box they'd used to exchange messages a little over a year previously.

'I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. I'm still not sure who is right, but I was an arse. Forgive me.' - J

Lily adored Godric's Hollow.

Originally, they had planned to stay in Godric's Hollow until she completed her Charms Mastery. Flitwick was certain she'd breeze through the work, although her current project was doing anything but progressing. But her frustrations just seemed to delight the diminutive professor, who insisted that it wasn't a lack of talent but a matter of scoop. And that she'd get there. James just grinned at her and emphasized why he decided to put off working on a Mastery with McGonagall (although Lily was certain if James hadn't locked the process into the Marauders Grimoire, he had been given a Mastery on his work for the animagus transformation alone).

Then James parents passed unexpectedly.

Healers had done all they could, but they were older by Wizarding standards and magic couldn't heal everything. The blow had rocked her husband, the parents he'd adored, just... gone. Lily had loved Dora and Charles fiercely and their loss was somehow so much worse than her parents. That first month had been awful. James had thrown himself into managing the Potter affairs and Lily had spent a month worrying herself thin before she'd called in backup. She had no idea what the boys had done with James that weekend, but he came home James; quieter, and somehow, more fierce in how he cared about those around him, but James.

Then Orion Black passed. Sirius had no love of his father, but it'd been a shock. He'd shown up, bleary eyed and piss drunk.

"Shouldn't have been surprise," Sirius said at the time, eyes wild. "The Black family dies young."

Remus had glared at him, the wolf bleeding into his gaze; the full moon two nights out. "Don't be stupid, and you'll make it long enough to wish you were as good looking as me in your old age."

Sirius had blinked and looked away, face drawn. Peter had sighed heavily, shaking his head.

"We all know I'm the pretty one. But I'll try not to draw all the attention away from your wrinkled arse when it happens."

Visits from any of the boys had been sporadic after that. Remus was around, but she rarely managed more than a wave as he and James buried themselves in the running of the Potter Estate. Sirius was obligated to stay in morning for his father, under Regulus' dictation. But even Sirius too was busy with muddling through the records of what Alphard had left him to do more than brood.

And Pete. Lily knew that Pete had agreed to help Dumbledore in whatever it was that he was doing to raise resistance against Voldemort. She and James had received invitations to the same organization through Fawkes. But after two days of heavy discussion, they'd both agreed neither of them were prepared for that kind of role. James was filling his father's shoes in the Wizamont, and even with his youth, he was being heard. It helped that Frank Longbottom had decided to remind people of their old alliance.

"The House of Longbottom is formidable," James had told her as they unwound near the fire, hands in her hair. "Our alliance is old."

Lily shifted, relaxing comfortably against the length of him. She liked this couch, even if Sirius complained that was it too narrow. Resting her cheek against the firm muscle of his chest, she sighed. "I didn't know you and Frank were friends."

"We were friendly in school. Two years was a larger distance then than it is now. I like him. He's solid, and his views mesh well with ours. Renewing the alliance was smart. And don't let his affable face fool you, he's one of Mad Eye Moody's protégés. He wiped the floor with me when we dueled today."

Lily lifted a brow. "Really?"

"He's good. He's agreed to weekly visits. I could use the practice. I imagine it won't be long before the others are involved."

Lily touched his jaw with her fingertips. "Would it bother you if I joined?"

James considered it and shook his head. "No. Alice, Frank's wife will probably join as well. And you're a dirty dueler."

Lily shrugged. "I was taught to duel to win. Snape knows my tricks though, so learning new ones is a good idea."

So now they dueled with Frank and Alice Longbottom once a week. The others joined when they could, and sometimes she saw Frank shake his head in disbelief at the sheer destruction the Marauders were capable of together.

"Moody would have loved to have them," Frank had quietly told her once. "They always have five plans of attack and two exist strategies in any situation; I'm not sure James and Sirius even require words to outline a strategy."

Mad Eye Moody's favorite student thought her husband was brilliant in a duel. And while they had turned Dumbledore down to outright join his resistance, she felt deep in her gut that one day that would change.

Because Pete had said yes.

"Someone needs to know what's being done," he'd pointed out to James. "You and Sirius, you're putting pressure on Old Voldy politically. He has to know that you'll never vote for some of the measures that have been hinted at in the pure blood circles; that'll carry weight with some of the more traditional sects, if not the blood purists. Dumbledore keeps too many cards close to his chest. And he has a point, as careful as he is, eventually the death eaters will manage to get a spy in their ranks."

Pete had some sort of oath that was supposed to keep him from discussing what was going on with the resistance group, but the previous oath the marauders had taken circumvented most of it. And that worried Lily. Because if a group of 5th years, brilliant through they were, could manage to find a work around whatever oath Dumbledore was using, then she didn't doubt Voldemort could as well. She'd taken the Marauder's oath the day she married James, and they'd been filling her in one things as they came up (the grimoire they'd completed was brilliant). Which was why she needed her Charms Mastery project to be completed, and soon.

But tonight was supposed to give everyone a chance to relax. To laugh. And she was staring at the mashed potatoes like a lifeline. Lifting her gaze to James, silently implored him for help.

But it was Sirius who broke the silence.

"Pete, you look terrible."

Scowling, Peter shoved a forkful of beef into his mouth and chewed. Always smaller than the others, he was moving from slender to thin. Lily worried about him. He'd added another couple inches to his height, which put him just at her eye level – the pudgy, timid boy from first and second year was long gone.

"Thank you."

Sirius rolled his eyes. "You're welcome. Now tell why you're worried."

"Or what has Dumbledore worried and has you in knots." James offered.

"Dumbledore is always worried." Peter said slowly. He set his mouth in a grim line and then looked up. There was something in his gaze that chilled Lily.

"The Death Eaters are trying to recruit me to play spy. Dumbledore wants me to accept and spy on them instead."

Silence filled the small dining area as everyone absorbed the news. Then everyone started talking at once.

"No."

"You aren't considering..."

"But, Pete!"

"Are you insane?"

Peter looked at Remus and held his wolf bright gaze. "If I don't, who will?"

Lily squeezed James hand so hard she heard something pop. "Peter... They'd want you to take the mark. I've told you what I think he's done to the protean charm, how he's perverted it based on what information we have. If I'm right, you'd be linked to him. Until one of you dies."

He swallowed and squared his shoulders. "I have to assume that, but I don't know. Voldy has to know that Dumbledore would check for that. And marking a spy does no good. Easier to be caught."

Sirius sneered. "Because Dumbledore did such a good job of keeping the dark mark out of the school."

James studied him and clenched his jaw tightly for a moment before speaking. "You're determined to do this."

Peter curled the hand resting on the table into a fist and swallowed. "I found a family two nights ago. Muggles. They'd been slaughtered. The Aurors weren't far behind me, but when they arrived they just cleaned it up. They obliviated everyone non-magical and then left. But no one notices a rat, so they didn't notice me. There were children in that house. Two of them. They hadn't died first."

Lily reached over and pressed her free hand to his. "What's Dumbledore's plan? How are... Why are they recruiting you?"

Peter gave a shaky laugh and rubbed his palms over his face. "They've been trying to recruit me since Fifth Year. I'm always seen as the weak link."

Lily snorted, shaking her head. "That's stupid of them. But why did you let them?"

Sirius clenched his jaw. "Because Pete asked us to."

Pete opened both his hands, showing his palms and shrugging. "They worked on an obvious weakness. It gave us time to shore up the real ones."

"And now you want to use that to spy." James said, his tone strangely flat but his eyes were over bright.

"Yes." Peter nodded. "I am. I will. Things are bad, Prongs, but they'll get worse. He's made deals with some of the werewolves... How long until the worst of them start attacking witches and wizards? Many believe it's just a matter of time before he has alliances with vampires or the giants. We need information. I'll be careful, as careful as I can. But what I'm afraid of is that he's really after information about you."

James frowned, fingers tightening against Lily's grip. "Why?"

Remus looked grim. "I told you that opposing that last bill from Malfoy was going to draw attention."

James shrugged, uncaring. "The day I allow that slimy arse to push a bill about controlling werewolves into law is the day I take up knitting."

Sirius frowned, eyes narrowed in thought. "Yes, but you won."

Peter nodded wearily. "Everyone was surprised, and we think that it might be why he's having difficulty bringing some of the more moderate packs into line. You fought and won for them."

James snorted. "I haven't changed anything yet, I just kept it from getting worse."

"But that means something to them." Remus said quietly. "Does Dumbledore think that Voldemort was behind the bill?"

"There is no confirmation that any of the Malfoy family has taken the dark mark." Peter said. "But..."

"But Sev did." Lily said softly. "And Lucius Malfoy was something of a mentor to him."

Sirius smiled bitterly. "Regulus has one."

"You're certain." Remus asked.

"Positive. And Malfoy is too much of a pretentious arse to let the Black family beat him in this too. And there is no doubt Lucius is involved."

Peter nodded. "You're going to be a target, James... Lils. You're too public about opposing him and your family has a history of fighting Dark Lords. With so many being killed, they need someone to rally around. Dumbledore isn't willing to be in the open, not yet."

"Not to mention that Lily is a muggle born Head Girl and James married her." Remus said quietly. "I know people are already speculating about me. I don't know why Snape hasn't let it leak yet."

James lifted her hand to his mouth, holding it there for a moment. "Lily and I... We will discuss it in a moment. But first, what is Dumbledore's plan Pete. If you go in, how does he intend to protect you?"

Peter shook his head. "Right now it's just an idea to him. I haven't told him how serious they are about recruiting me. They want an in to how you think James. I don't know why he's fixated on you, but you need to be careful."

Sirius growled, shoving his hands through his hair. "I thought Dumbledore was smarter than this. Hinging everything on one man he knows so little about. He doesn't know what you are capable of Peter, he thinks you're a tool. And he'd send you to spy."

"He needs information..." Peter said carefully. "We don't know nearly enough about what is going on. He's concerned for me, of course, but he thinks the risks are worth it. I don't think he's careless with people, but I do think he gets too worried about the big picture."

Lily chewed on her lip. "He thinks they can be redeemed? The Death Eaters... they torture children!"

Remus closed his eyes. "Sometimes second chances are all a person needs. Some of them might not have understood the consequences when they joined. Some of them are children."

James blew out a breath. "We've all benefitted from his belief in second chances." He stared hard at Sirius. "But I can't agree with him on this. Boyhood stupidity and lack of realizing consequences is one thing, but murder is another. And that's what it takes to have a dark mark. If they are filled with doubts, why haven't they gone to Dumbledore for help?"

Peter shook his head. "You'll never convince Dumbledore that they are beyond redemption. All it'll take is one broken, remorseful Death Eater who's willing to swear a vow of secrecy and we'll have a mole in the ranks. Oaths are avoidable, as we've learned, if you have something in place before."

"So what," Remus asked with disbelief. "You'll do it first? Slid into the Dark Lords ranks and give bits and pieces of information and hope it's enough?"

"Yes." He looked at his friends. "Everyone overlooks a rat. And everyone thinks I'm weak. They see what they want to see. And if he is going to target us, we need to know!"

"You are not going to try to join the death eaters without a plan." Sirius said flatly. "A careful one."

Lily closed her eyes and made a choice. "Snape is a legilimens. A very good one. I'd imagine that Voldemort is as well, so any plan, any discussion had best be hidden under our vows."

When she opened her eyes, they were all staring at her. She compressed her lips and looked at Pete. "I'll have a full list of all the spells that he's created, as well as their counters to you by tomorrow. Some of them are nasty. I'm sure he's made more. Do not eat or drink anything while you are with the death eaters. He's brilliant at Potions. Rumor has it he's on track to have his Mastery in half the usual time."

Remus looked resigned. "There aren't that many legilimens. I doubt Voldemort would want to make it common knowledge of what Snape can do."

Lily smiled grimly. "Snape knows that I'm aware of his skills. He'll be cautious, but his temper is cold. Do not underestimate him. He plans for the long term and is willing to sacrifice anything for those goals."

Sirius stared at her and slowly nodded. "He's the very last thing I want to respect, but I'm not so prideful as to die by it. Your certain he's a threat, so we'll act accordingly. But if he attacks you, Lily, James is going to have to be fast with his wand to kill him before I do."

Lily shook her head. "I'll brook no threat against my family, Sirius, so you'd have to be faster than me."

Peter sighed. "Dumbledore has instructed no lethal curses. So have the Aurors."

Remus narrowed his eyes. "You'd better let Dumbledore know that won't fly with us. If any of them try to attack, we'll hit back harder."

"Lily and I are moving." James said jarringly into the silence of the room.

Sirius looked up, eyes glinting. "Where?"

"Potter Manor."

Remus frowned, hesitated, and finally spoke. "Are you going to be comfortable there?"

The place his parents had lived. Had died. The beautiful, heavily warded manor James had been avoiding for weeks.

"No," he said flatly. "But it'll be worse if you lot aren't there to help us rearrange."

Peter glowered at him over a forkful of green-beans. "Didn't we just finish this one?"

Lily fought down a smile. "Yes. But... Well, we had intended to turn this place into a safe house of sorts. Hide it under the fidelous so that everyone had a place to run. The manor is unplottable and protected by family magic, but we're going to hide it too."

"The fidelous... A lot of people know where the manor is Lily."

Lily shook her head. "I'm... Yes. It's hard to hide something like that under the fidelous. It's too public. I working on something else. It's my charms mastery project. If it works, then we won't need the fidelous there."

"Will you be safe in the meantime?"

James gave a grim smile. "Yes."

"Are you sure you can't stay here?" Sirius asked, eyes worried. "Under fidelous you'd be safe."

"No." James said firmly. "We are not hiding. Not yet. Voldemort isn't the first dark lord my family has fought against, and the wards have never been breached. We'll be careful, but we need a place where we can plan. And Peter needs a safe place to rest and hide."

Peter blinked and then his eyes narrowed. "The same concept we had for Lily last year? He'd notice a portkey. I know there are spells that can hinder them."

James shook his head. "I don't know. We will have to figure something out, but we will. We just need to finish the perimeter..."

The sound of something crashing into the garden brought everyone out of their seat. For a moment, there was silence and then someone started screaming. Lily pulled her wand out from her pocket, close to James' heels as he pushed open the door. Muttering a shielding spell as they spilled out of the cottage, she squinted as Remus sent a glowing ball of light into the garden.

There was a prone, shapeless body wrapped in a dark cloak that was clearly injured. Standing next to him, palms out was a wounded, filthy house elf. Lily couldn't tell if the blood was his or if it belonged to the motionless figure on the ground. But what was horrifying, and had her clenching her fingers tightly around her wand was the gaunt, pale, skeleton-like creature that was reaching for the house elf. But whatever the elf was doing, he was managing to keep it from closing the distance between them.

"Dear Merlin," Remus breathed. "That's an inferni."

Sirius suddenly made a pained, furious sound from the back of his throat and lurched forward. Remus grabbed his arm and Sirius shook him off, violently.

"That's Kreacher."

Lily went cold. The figure the inferni was trying to reach was Regulus? "We need fire. I'll shield the house elf and... Whoever he is with. You four burn it."

Sirius nodded, motions jerky as he raised his wand. "On three."

Lifting her wand, Lily very cast the strongest shield charm she knew, locking her teeth together to hold it. Then suddenly, the garden was filled with fire. It shoved against her shield, pressed into all the open spaces and burned everything down to the dirt. When it was over, the only thing that was untouched were the two figures huddled together.

Lily broke into a run.

"No!" Kreacher croaked. "No mudblood shall touch Master!"

Sirius snarled at him. "Move and be silent."

Kreacher bared his teeth but to everyone's surprise, did as he was told. Lily looked at his hateful expression, but dropped to her knees anyway. There was so little of the man left. It looked like he'd been pulled apart and chewed on. And there was so much blood.

"Regulus," Sirius breathed. One eye opened and Regulus made a deep, hacking sound as he tried to breath. "We need to get you to Mungos."

Regulus groaned and shook his head. "No. Too late... for that. There were too many. Kreacher..."

Sirius jawed work as he glanced at Lily. She shook her head even as she frantically cast charms. She could help with some of the pain, but this kind of healing was beyond her. But she'd try. She heard Remus working next to her, diagnostic charms flying between them while James stood guard, his eyes scanning what was left of their yard.

She didn't see Peter.

"Who did this?"

Regulus sagged into himself and his eye closed. "Came back. Wasn't supposed too. Too important."

Remus leaned forward, hand tightening on Sirius shoulder. "What was?"

"Horoux."

Sirius shook his head. "What?"

"I only have one. Locket." He made another rattling cry and Lily cursed as she frantically worked to stop the bleeding. "Kreacher... pocket..."

Regulus open both eyes, staring at Sirius. "You were right. Over my head. Take... care of Kreacher. Saved... me." He breathed in deep, blood bubbling between his lips, bleeding from to many injuries to count.

His eyes lifted just enough to meet Sirius frantic gaze. Reaching up with what was left if his left hand he grasped Sirius' arm. "I'm sorry... brother."

And then he was gone.

For a moment, it was completely still. Then magic rushed into the burned out yard, thick and heavy as the family ring that had been lost with most of Regulus' arm reappeared on Sirius' right hand.

Sirius clutched at the body of his brother and wept.

X

Lily sat quietly, feeling wrecked. They'd buried Regulus in the back corner of their yard, under the trees. She'd never forget the anguish on Sirius' face when Remus had crouched next to the body, quietly suggesting that they go ahead and perform the rites.

"He died fighting Voldemort." Remus had held Sirius' gaze unflinchingly. "We can't have a public burial. That would require the House of Black to declare a blood feud with Voldemort. We can't risk it, not yet. Not until we know what a Horoux is and why Regulus died for it."

James crouched next to Sirius and gripped his shoulder. "House of Potter will stand with Black when the time comes."

That simply, they'd offered Sirius absolution for his brother. In one argument, they'd acknowledged that Regulus had tried to make amends, and turned his back to the Dark Lord and had been accepted as family by all of them. And Lily's heart cracked for all of them.

Swallowing, Sirius had gripped his brother's bloody cloak between his fingers and finally nodded. But behind his eyes had been a rage that had been palpable. "The only family that matters is here. Get Pete and we'll burry him under the trees."

Now there was blood under her nails a scourgify hadn't removed, her yard was a burned-out pit and she'd have to find the strength to clean her dining room. Her husband was upstairs with Sirius.

When Peter had reappeared, he'd brought with him enough Dreamless Sleep to knock out an elephant.

"Don't worry," Peter assured her as he dosed some tea. "Remus knows exactly how much to give him."

"How?"

Remus rubbed the back if his neck, but his eyes were on her stairs. "When I was younger I wanted to be a healer. Madam Pomfrey took pity on me and left some medical texts for me to read when I was spending time in the infirmary."

Lily gawked at him. "But... healing requires a N.E.W.T in Potions."

Remus blushed. "Yes. Obviously, Slughorn was relieved when I decided against that occupation."

Peter grinned, the smile almost reaching his eyes. "He begged."

Remus shrugged and reached for the tea tray. "It's also why no one encouraged me to become an Auror. Not that being a werewolf would have helped with that."

Watching the last two Marauders disappear upstairs, Lily pulled her knees to her chin and wrapped her arms around her legs feeling cold. Regulus Black had been murdered. Voldemort may not have cast the spell, but he'd killed Regulus all the same. She was terrified.

Sirius had somehow become her friend. Peter might have given her away at her wedding but Sirius had stood with James as his Best Man, had looked at her with acceptance and told her to make James happy. He ate breakfast at their house every other day and shared Sunday dinners with them.

Her husband had not flinched when he promised to go to war at Sirius' side. Blood feuds among the pure blood society were not to be taken lightly. It wouldn't happen today, and it wouldn't happen tomorrow, but there would be a culling in the House of Black for this.

Pushing to her feet she lit the fire with a flick of her wand. Hesitating, she rolled the familiar weight if it between her fingers. 10 and 1/4 inches of willow and a dragon heart string core it had been her constant companion since she was eleven years old. And someday it might be the only thing standing between her family and death.

"Hey."

Lily looked up and blinked to find James watching her. His hair was going in every direction, his shirt was untucked and he was barefoot and her heart lurched into her throat.

"Hi."

He studied her for a moment before walking over and standing with her in front of the fire. She was silent, trying to process what she was feeling, rolling the length if her wand between her fingers.

"How's Sirius?"

James sighed heavily, shoving his hands into his pockets as he bent his head. "Rough. Peter headed out, but Remus is staying. We'll sort the rest of it out in the morning."

Lily curled her fingers around her wand and took a deep breath at the unexpected surge of anger that threatened to choke her. Carefully she turned away and set her wand on the table. "Sort out what, exactly?"

"Lily..." He said slowly before turning to face her. She couldn't quite read his expression but there was obviously something about hers that set him on edge. Shoulders tightening, his voice held a faint note of tension.

"What's wrong?"

Lily stared at him, momentarily at lost for words. Was he... "What's wrong? Did you just ask me that?"

Reaching up to rub his face, James blew out a long breathe. "I'm running on nothing right now, Lils. With everything that has gone so spectacularly wrong tonight, I don't know where to start."

Arms crossing, Lily hugged herself. "Merlin, James. I don't know. The part were Peter wants to become a spy? The half-eaten, mangled corpse that used to be Regulus that was dropped onto our back lawn? Oh, I know. How about the part where you swore House of Potter to join House of Black in a blood feud with Voldemort?"

James moved forward, stopping when he was close enough to touch but not so close as to crowd her. "You don't agree with my decision?"

Lily balled her hands into fists. "I don't know! It's Sirius, of course we are going to stand with him. But it's one thing to stand and it's another thing to fling ourselves into a war."

His jaw tightened. "That's what you think this is?"

Lily reached up and rubbed her face, the sight of his temper deflating hers. "I don't know. I don't know anything and I'm absolutely terrified."

James reached for her cold hands and brought them to his mouth. Watching Regulus die had rocked him. Seeing Sirius unravel, seeing the strain and barely contained terror on Lily's face... the way she trembled with all the words she wasn't saying.

"You are the most important thing in my life." James told her fiercely. "There is nothing I wouldn't do to keep you safe."

Lily bit down hard on her bottom lip to stop it from trembling. Blinking rapidly, she shook her head. "We fight together or we run together, James. No in-betweens, no what ifs."

Slowly, he nodded. "So be it. So, Lily Potter nee Evans. Do we fight or do we run?"

Lily was at a loss. Not two hours ago, with Regulus still warm between them, James had sworn aid to the House of Black in its blood feud with Voldemort. He carried an oath of loyalty that was strong enough to circumvent the oath of secrecy Peter had given Dumbledore. She'd taken the same vow, drunk with happiness hours after her wedding.

But he was offering to forsake all of that, for her. His face blurred as her eyes filled and she blinked tears down her cheeks. James was choosing her, again. Over everything else. And regardless of the bone deep terror of losing him, of watching her friends and family die... there was only one answer to give.

"We fight."

James let go of her hands to wipe her face. "Are you sure?"

"He killed Regulus." Lily said quietly. "He's killed so many others. He won't stop killing unless he is stopped. I'm scared, James. The idea of waking up without you one day..." She shook her head.

James nodded. "I spent so much time before we graduated thinking about fighting him. What it would be like. This is worse. You can't imagine this."

"Hey," she took his hand. "Terrified is okay. Scared it damn smart. But there is no way I'm letting any of our family do this alone. But James, we have to be smart. Careful."

"Tomorrow Sirius wants to ask Kreacher what happened. He also has to deal with his family which is going to be... Merlin, this is such a mess."

Lily tightened her grip. "Then what? We can't just treat this like another prank, James. Sirius can be such a hot head, but not with this. Peter is already worried that were making ourselves targets because of your opposition in the Wizamont. Targets disappear."

Pulling back, James cupped her face in his hands. "But we can't sit here and do nothing. Maybe if I'd become an Auror things would be different, but I don't see how. Voldemort won't stop until he is stopped."

She shook her head. "Do you think that I want to watch the world burn around us? I'm just asking that we don't do anything rash. This isn't a game."

"I know." His eyes were determined behind his glasses. "Peter is going to ask Dumbledore to come by in the morning."

Lily nodded. "He needs to know about these Horoux, whatever they are."

"Among other things," James agreed. Suddenly he bent his head, mouth pressing against hers. Lily jerked at the unexpected pressure before sinking into the heat of it. When James pulled back they were both breathing hard.

"You can't do that to me, Evans. You're not allowed to sacrifice yourself to protect me. Whatever Regulus was thinking, whatever he thought the price was worth, I'm not sure it is."

Reaching up she pressed her palm to his face. "Hey, it's Potter now."

He just looked at her, the green in his eyes over bright. "I mean it."

"That goes both ways," she told him stubbornly. "Magic isn't worth having if it means I lose you. Don't you understand that the idea of you being killed, or worse, left dying like Regulus at my feet doesn't terrify me too?"

"Lily," James said as he reached out and pulled her against him. "I'm sorry. I should have had Remus put Sirius down."

"It's okay. Sirius needed you."

James rested his head against hers. "So did you."

Lily nodded, not trusting her voice. The events from the last two hours were clogging her throat and burning behind her eyes. So instead she concentrated on James and breathed.

And worried about tomorrow.


So a couple of thoughts.

I wanted to save Regulus. I really, really did. For me, one of the biggest injustices from the HP world was Regulus dying to fight Voldemort and Sirius never knowing about it. For a man who spent his youth in Azkaban and his freedom locked in a horrible house, I think knowing his brother loved him and turned his back on everything that was so precious to the pure bloods would have brought him a little peace. It saddens me that didn't happen. So I couldn't save Regulus. But I could try to make his, death worth it.

Obviously, they will not be staying at the cottage. Why? Because if the Malfoy's have a manor and the Blacks have a Manor, then I'm I can't understand why the Potter's wouldn't. I imagine they are completely different kinds of manors, but a home that is steeped in magic and tradition. I can't imagine a family like the Potter's wouldn't have one.

Obviously, we are going to seriously start changing canon now. This chapter took forever to write because I needed to frame things out. The next few chapters might be even slower, because I need to carefully start the end game.

Wish me luck.