Thank you to TeamGredandForge, who inspired me to fix my muddled ideas. Thank you all for supporting this tale. It's been a delight writing for you. I hope you drop by again for more stories.
"But what," James protested as Harry threw him two sets of goggles and began rummaging through a large cardboard box, "if I die?"
"You won't," Harry shrugged. He was shifting something heavy. "Where did I put that… anyway, let's review. The white button?"
"Will make me invisible."
"Good. The red button?"
"Is for emergencies. It's your cue to come… save me."
Harry straightened at last and passed James a pair of helmets. "Right," he nodded. "You've got a good sense of direction, so you'll be fine. Invite her for dinner, alright?"
James nodded mechanically, hoping that he would make it back, let alone in time to eat. He slid a helmet onto his head, then stared at the second one. Horrified, he glanced at Harry, who smiled; groaning, James dropped the second helmet into a compartment. He made a few last adjustments then, following his father's instruction, threw his foot down on the kick starter, mounting the humming motorbike. He looked back, pleading, "Won't your boss have your head for this?"
"What Kingsley doesn't know won't hurt him," said Harry cheerfully. "He knows about the bike. It used to belong to Sirius, so in a way… you were meant to use it, someday. Take care, son."
"Sure," murmured James. The bike was grumbling impatiently. "Off I go…"
Harry rolled his eyes and pointed his wand at the motorbike. "If you don't get moving," he warned, "I'll make you."
Cursing his father, James inhaled. He numbly pressed his thumb on the white button, and from Harry's satisfied expression, knew that he had disappeared. The boy leant forward –
And he was up! This was nothing like a broom – he'd never had a single outing on the motorbike – the monster roared and James cringed; being invisible didn't make a difference to sound –
He was gliding. Sparing a half-second to glance over his shoulder, he glimpsed his waving father – then James faced forward, gritting his teeth. He was flying steadily, and though there was no early morning breeze, he felt strangely comfortable. After a while, he reasoned that, actually, it was no different to being on his Supernova. James let out a triumphant whoop – Harry was right, this was brilliant –
"Thanks Sirius," James chuckled, "I owe you."
The engine returned to its casual whirr. Far, far below James, the countryside was expanding, becoming verdant hills and fields. He spied a glittering river and huge areas where Muggle cranes had scooped up chunks of land, leaving earthy dunes. The morning grew brighter; the sun was rising higher and higher. James was perspiring; he had been flying for at least an hour.
Then the sweeping perimeter of a familiar town came into view. James swallowed, directing the motorbike; it hissed – he was descending –
The motorbike coughed.
"No," groaned James, "don't you dare…"
The asphalt was rocketing up; he was going too fast – he squeezed on the lever and – too late! James twisted his body, swearing. The bike swerved. He was –
He landed at the base of a garage door. James lay still for a moment, breathing in the rusted metal, praying that his bones weren't broken. The last time he had felt so bad was during a brawl with the Whomping Willow.
Slowly, he opened his eyes. Well. The bike was fine. He sat up: the Disillusionment Charm had broken, but perhaps (after so many decades of reckless owners) it had developed a magical sentience – it had skidded to a halt of its own accord.
Sirius' old motorbike knew how to stay out of trouble.
"Lesson one," James said aloud, peeling off the helmet and goggles, "parking." He slipped the key from the ignition, pocketing it. Then he prodded the white button: the bike turned invisible once more. James added, "Stay safe." He checked an address on an envelope and went on his way. He knew these winding streets.
He rang the doorbell. He shifted his weight; he could hear movement – someone was definitely home. Without warning the door was flung open. He twitched.
"Finally! I can't decide – oh! OH!" She pressed her hands to her flushing face. "James!"
"Hey…" he trailed. "Uh. Can I come in?"
She shuffled backwards into the hallway. With a deep breath James followed, closing the door behind him with one foot. Then he looked at the girl.
She was wearing a long, yellow dress; there were multiple folds in the skirt and it was studded with silver. Her long hair spiralled into tendrils and a yellow headband sat above her fringe.
"I… found something for prom." She gestured, and rushed, "This is basically a dress rehearsal; my friend was supposed to come by and help me decide which earrings to wear, except, you know, her room is a dump apparently, and she's under house arrest till it's tidy, so I thought that she was free at last and it's – you." She blinked, but her eyes did not lose their shine. "James – I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry."
"Don't apologise," he said quietly. "Let's just forget about it, okay?"
Her shoulders were shaking. "So that was your owl?"
She twisted her hair around one finger. "I guess… you're here to…"
James frowned. The journey had been long – it had taken so much effort to come here – he had completely forgotten about her compromise… "No, not at all. I was shocked, honestly; I know what memories mean to you." He ran a hand through his damp hair. "I came here to see you," he continued, "and… to invite you to dinner."
Her arms were flat against her sides. "You mean it?"
"I mean it."
She visibly brightened; James felt a twinge in his chest. "In that case," she said hurriedly, "I'll go change –"
And she ran upstairs, wiping her face with the back of her hand.
James loitered in the hallway. There was a wooden shoe cupboard and a pile of newspapers in one corner; on his left, a door led to the kitchen while on his right, another led to the living room. After a minute he pushed the living room door – a woman with wispy hair was sitting on the sofa; with a start, James realised that this was the stern examiner.
"Hi," announced James awkwardly.
"Hello," she replied, pressing the remote control so that the television suddenly silenced, "I don't believe we've met."
"I'm James," he said, taking a few steps further into the room. "James Sirius Potter."
What did that mean? "Uh," James was suddenly abashed by his grimy appearance – he rushed, "if it's alright with you, my parents –"
"Yes, yes," she waved her hand. "It's fine with me. Enjoy dinner."
They conversed pleasantly. James told her that he attended a boarding school in the north; she nodded her approval. Feet thundered down the stairs ("Always so ladylike, my daughter," the woman grumbled). The door crashed open.
"Aha," she laughed, "you've met!"
Ten minutes later they said their goodbyes; she promised to call home. As they strode down the garden path, she beamed. "How are we going to your house? Flying carpet?"
James shook his head. "Those were outlawed last century. This is a surprise."
They rounded a street, stopping in front of the line of old garages. She peered around, searching for anything unusual. Then she stared at James, who indicated, "This way."
He led her towards the invisible motorbike, appearing to run his hands through thin air. She waited patiently – until James poked the white button and the vehicle snapped into view – she gasped, James grinned.
"A motorbike?" She slowly circled it. "You're too young for a license, surely?"
"Probably," James shrugged. "This… is a flying motorbike."
She gazed at him with such open admiration that James vowed never to doubt Harry's judgement again.
Their elbows were yanked upon entering the house – James glowered but Albus shot him a fearful glance; they were ushered into another room. The girl looked between the two brothers curiously as Albus advised, "Be careful."
A second later, James' question was answered.
"You're about to become the Man Who Died! You, Harry James Potter, are getting out this instant and finding our son!"
"He's fine, Ginny! If he was in trouble –"
"IF I HEAR ONE MORE WORD –"
Lily shrieked, "He's back! I heard the front door!"
Silence. James waited anxiously, watching as Ginny stalked into the living room, murderous resolve still scribbled across her features. Lily hovered in the background, and, slightly further behind, Harry repaired his glasses.
"Hi," James greeted faintly.
Ginny raked her eyes over her son. The girl strode forward, introducing herself. Ginny took her extended hand, replying, "Ginevra Potter."
Harry said, "She's staying for dinner."
"Lovely," Ginny smiled. Then she scowled at James. "Where is it?"
With another smile at the teenagers, Ginny turned on her heel and marched from the room – she grabbed Harry's ear and dragged him along. When the front door slammed shut, there was a silence, broken by Albus exhaling audibly.
"Okay," Lily folded her arms, "who're you?"
"Me?" The girl blinked. "I'm –"
Lily sniffed imperiously, cutting her off.
"This is your little sister?" The girl glanced at James. "She looks tough."
Placing her hands on her hips, Lily declared, "I am tough."
James said gloomily, "I don't know what got into her when she started at Hogwarts. She used to be really cute – never picked a fight – hey, what?"
The girl had flicked Lily's forehead. Looking momentarily startled, Lily growled, "Is that a challenge?"
"You bet!" The girl assumed her full height, smirking. "Name the sport – I'll take you on!"
"Quidditch," said Lily immediately.
"That's hardly fair," James interrupted hastily. "It's played on broomsticks," he said, seeing her questioning look. "And –"
Albus was moving stealthily, as though to slide from the room. But Lily was too quick – she seized her brother's wrist, "You can be on her team. I'm with James."
"I was..." Under Lily's burning glare, Albus faltered. "Fine," he muttered.
"He's more like a handicap," scoffed James. "That's not fair either."
While Albus tried to regale the group with tales of his sporting prowess, Harry and Ginny returned. Harry nodded; the bike was in working order. Frustrated, Lily cried, "Fine! Boys versus girls! Mum's on our team!"
"Excellent – we have the Seeker himself," drawled James. "Assume battle positions!"
The girl glowered at Lily. "This alliance is only a temporary. Once we beat them, it's war."
"I wouldn't want it any other way," said Lily loftily.
"Fine, fine," agreed Ginny. "Let's get this show on the road... what're we playing?"
They trooped outside. Summer heat dripped through the air. But these temperatures weren't overwhelming, James thought as he looked over at the girl, whose dark eyes were lined with competitive determination... this weather was soothing.
With a wave of his wand, Harry conjured a football and began detailing the Muggle sport.
Later that evening, Harry disappeared to organise a Portkey; Ginny said something about finishing an article and Lily and Albus were ordered to get on with their homework. James and the girl returned to the garden, discussing the last few months.
Then, when Harry called their names, she took James' fingers and pointed at the clear sky. Diamond swirls had congregated in the dark expanse; James inhaled sharply, suddenly recalling that he had read, somewhere, that stars could sing.
"Look," she said, "Pegasus."
She had identified the bright, summer constellation. Nowadays he knew the brilliant shine of space; he had spent so many nights studying the skies, so many days poring over textbooks and charts. They were almost painfully beautiful, sketched in intricate arrangements…
"I like spring," he murmured. "You can see Monoceros."
She smiled. "It's right by Leo."