A/N: Welcome to my story! Settle in...it's going to be a long ride! I've been nervous about posting because this is my baby, but I think it's time to post, seeing as I've written over 120,000 words so far! This is a completely AU story and a truly ensemble fic. Everyone will be making appearances! I know the prologue gives you little to go on, so I'll be posting the first chapter soon! Thanks, and please review!
"Look at him, James," Lily laughed as her pyjama-clad boy looked hopefully to his toy broom resting in the corner of the room. "No more tonight, Sweetheart. It's time for bed," she chided gently and ruffled his hair, smiling contently as she once more admired just how much he resembled James. Judging by the interest in the toy broom, a gift from his godfather, Harry had more than just his looks in common with his daddy, and Lily really wouldn't have it any other way.
James Potter had once been the bane of Lily's existence. She hadn't known it then, hadn't understood the workings of her own mysterious heart, but the intense irritation, the way he needled under her skin so easily, the way he could always bring an infuriated blush to her cheeks…it was the beginning of something. He was arrogant and a troublemaker, but as time and circumstance moulded him into a man, other forces were at work in her life, drawing her to the quiet strength that lurked beneath the mischievous exterior, pulling her towards the good, honest, pure heart of the man who had become her husband. Oh, James was still childish and exciteable, and he could still turn her temper on a dime, but she loved him just as he was, and if Harry turned out to be half the man his father was, Lily knew he'd make them both so proud.
"Just like his old man," James beamed. "What do you think, Harry? Mummy will never let you be a Beater. She thinks it's barbaric," he winked at his son.
"Dangerous," she corrected. "If you insist on allowing my little boy to zoom around like a madman, at least spare my heart a bit."
"He's a natural, Love," her husband assured her. "Just like Daddy, right, Harry?"
Harry cooed in agreement, and Lily rolled her eyes. "Must I remind you precisely how many times my heart was in my throat watching you? Or the number of bones Madam Pomfrey set right after you'd done something completely reckless?"
"Mmm, did you ever think perhaps it was all that concern from my favourite redhead that led me to death-defying stunts? What better way to convince you that you loved me than to make you fear for my life?"
"Prat," she accused and gathered Harry closer. "My little boy would never torture his mummy like that."
"He can be a Chaser, like me," James conceded. "Although, he's rather quick even with the baby broom. What do you say, mate? Want to be a Seeker?"
Harry just laughed happily, and both parents forgot all about Quidditch positions as they set out to keep him laughing. He was such a happy baby, rarely ever distraught about anything unless they took his broom or his stuffed dog away. Both were gifts from Sirius, and Harry loved them nearly as much as he loved his godfather. Their little boy was full of affection, and Lily reminded herself each day to cherish the moments when she could cuddle with her sweet baby. Too soon he would be grown, and she knew he was going to be a handful, just like James. He wouldn't always relish in hugs and kisses and cuddles, but for now, his world still revolved around the adults who kept him safe and never tired of his smile or happy laughter.
James pulled out his wand and started creating little shapes for Harry to catch, and Lily carefully placed her son on the sofa and kept an eye on him as they played. It was nearly his bedtime, and she knew she would have to cut the game off soon. The only time Harry got cranky was when he was overtired, and even though he was happy now, he hadn't napped well today and would wear himself out any moment.
Thankfully, someone else ended the game for her. "Prongs?" a familiar voice suddenly called. James shoved his wand back in his pocket and hurried to the kitchen to retrieve the two-way mirror he and Sirius had used since their early days at Hogwarts. Lily scooped Harry up and raised his tiny hand, using it to wave to James as she nodded upstairs to the nursery. He smiled and sent his son a kiss, then responded to Sirius.
"Good night, my sweetheart," Lily murmured as she nestled Harry in his soft blue blanket and tapped her wand to his mobile to start the quiet music that always lulled him right to sleep. "Mummy loves you. Sweet dreams." She kissed him once more, then shut off the lights with her wand and tiptoed out of the room, leaving the door ajar to allow a little light from the hallway.
"Lily," James greeted her tensely at the bottom of the staircase.
"Something wrong?" she asked in concern, noting how white his face had suddenly gone.
"Sirius thinks so. He went to check on Peter. He said he isn't there."
Lily's heart skipped a beat as she instinctively reached for her husband's hand. "Not there? He said he was going to stay."
James clenched his jaw and nodded, worry lines appearing on his forehead. "I don't know what to think. Sirius said there were no signs of a struggle."
"Perhaps he's just gone out, then," she said reasonably, trying not to jump to the worst conclusion.
"We told him not to," he ground out, his voice tense and the worry growing palpable in the air around them. "He shouldn't be going anywhere."
"But it's Peter," she countered. "He might have…"
"I think we ought to get Harry. Keep him with us, just in case."
"You don't really think Peter could have done anything. He wouldn't," she protested, her stomach beginning to churn violently at the idea of Harry in danger. They tried so hard to protect him, and she was just starting to feel safe under the magic of the Fidelius Charm. Peter had sworn to protect them, to keep them hidden away, and they were supposed to be hidden now where Voldemort could never find them.
"I hope not, Lily, but we can't take a chance. Not with Harry. Sirius is on his way here. We'll go to Hogwarts and have Dumbledore check the Charm, make sure it's still in place."
"James," she whimpered fearfully.
"It's all right, Lily," he promised, drawing her into a tight hug and kissing the top of her head. "I won't let anything happen to you. Either of you," he vowed. "Just go-"
The front door suddenly swung open, and Lily cried out as she spotted a black hood that did not belong to Sirius. The air suddenly felt colder, and she knew her worst nightmare had come true.
"Go," James whispered. "I love you."
There was no time to kiss him, no time for a last goodbye. No one faced Voldemort and won, and leaving him here was leaving him to certain death. But Harry was upstairs alone, completely defenseless and needing her. Her heart cried out in agony as she was released from her husband's embrace, but she did not hesitate even a second as she turned to bolt up the stairwell.
"How touching," a cold voice drawled. "It is too late to save your boy. Step aside, and I will not be forced to harm you."
Harry! Lily screamed inwardly. No, no, not Harry! Take me, not Harry! She scrambled up the stairs, desperate to reach her son, crying out to the stars to take her instead of Harry, to protect him, to stop Voldemort from reaching him. Just as she reached the top of the steps, she suddenly felt an incredible pain burst through her back. "Harry!" she screamed, throwing herself towards the nursery. "Harry!" she cried again, picturing her son in her mind and imagining herself in between him and Voldemort. I can save him, I can save him, she thought desperately. I'm sorry, Harry. Be safe, Love, be strong, she prayed to him. And then there was nothing.
James woke to an incredible burning in his throat. He choked on the thick air around him and tried to draw in a deep breath, but it stabbed at his lungs and his chest. He tried to force his eyes open, but they too began to burn. He could not recall why he was lying on the ground or why everything hurt, so he grew still and tried to focus, tried to remember how he came to be here.
Thoughts returned in painful waves. Sirius, calling him on the mirror. The pale, troubled look on his best friend's face. Peter missing. Lily worried, and…Lily! his mind suddenly screamed. Harry!
Pain no longer mattered as he remembered his last thoughts before blacking out. Voldemort was here, he was trying to attack them. James tried to stop him, but he wasn't quick enough. "Lily!" he cried, bolting upright and fighting through the smoke around him. He didn't have the presence of mind to cast a Bubblehead Charm, or any charm for that matter, as he ran to the last place he had seen her, praying frantically that she was still safe, that she was still alive. "Lily, please!" he cried in despair, thinking of Voldemort turning his wand on her while he was unconscious. How could he have let this happen? How could he have gone down before he knew Lily was safe? He vowed to protect her, and he was so easily defeated, so effortlessly ripped from her side.
"Lily!" he screamed once more. This time he was rewarded with sudden coughing and gagging, and he cleared away the smoke with his wand as he spotted red hair on the stairs. "Oh Lily, thank Merlin!"
"James!" she whimpered as he hurried up the stairs and dropped beside her on the landing. She was still choking on the smoke, and her green eyes were full of tears. "Harry! Where is he? Where's my baby?"
It was then, and only then, that James thought to look for the source of the smoke that was filling their house. He felt the cold finger of dread running down his spine as his fuzzy mind began to clear and the pieces started to fit together. He and Lily were alive, Voldemort was no longer here, and there was smoke. Harry…their baby…he was what Voldemort wanted, he was the target of the attack. And the only thing more cruel than killing their son was leaving them alive in a world without him.
"No," he breathed as the agony struck him. "No, no!"
Lily followed his gaze to the smoke pouring out of Harry's nursery. James could feel the heat now, and as he inched closer to the open doorway, he saw flames leaping through the room.
"No!" Lily screamed in anguish, jumping up from her place on the floor and attempting to run into the nursery.
Everything from there was a blur. He later recalled grabbing his wife, stopping her before she leapt into the flames herself. He wanted to dive in with her, but his last remaining shred of sanity protected them. He knew he couldn't let her go, no matter how badly they both wanted to follow Harry into death.
Later, he remembered a black cloak on the ground and what was left of the smoking, smoldering body of the wizard who terrorized them all. For a moment, he stared dazedly at the remains of Voldemort, shocked and confused and horrified all at once. Voldemort was dead, but there was no relief like there ought to be. There could be no joy now, no gratitude, nothing except grief. Because most of all, he remembered the flames licking his baby boy's nursery, the flames consuming all in sight. Harry's crib was already destroyed and crumbling, and Lily had screamed and wailed and beat against him as he tried desperately to hold her back.
Years and years later, he remembered the exact moment he realised, the exact moment he knew their son was lost. Lily was struggling in his arms, shrieking like a wounded animal, and he could only hold her back and stare in horror at the scene before him. Their son was supposed to be asleep in his crib, cuddled up warm and tight with his stuffed dug and dreaming beautiful dreams. But his room was ablaze, and the place their son had slept was now crumbling into ash.
For a moment, he was lost. The pain opened up like some great abyss and nearly swallowed him whole. He would have fallen into the flames and joined his baby boy if not for the woman he still held in his arms. It took every ounce of strength to do what he knew he must. Harry was gone, killed by Voldemort or killed by the fire now demolishing the room. There was nothing left alive in that room, and their son…their precious baby boy…he couldn't let Lily see that. He couldn't let her take another step and see the devastation inside, and he couldn't allow her to be hurt. He already failed his son, and she was all that was left to redeem him.
"I'm sorry," he choked. "I'm so sorry."
He tightened his grasp as she realised what he was about to do and fought him with all the strength of a tortured mother. He clenched his eyes shut and visualised the street in front of their house, then Apparated out, away from the flames, away from the death, away from Harry forever.