A/N: And here it is, the final (dreaded) chapter of this. Before I go on, I want to thank every single one of you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
It has been a pleasure writing for you. I hope I did these characters justice.
Disclaimer: JK Rolwing's characters. If they were mine, it would not end like this.
October 31st, 1981
They were dead.
The word seemed invented, unfitting to them.
Though he tried to remain as detached as he could during the last few weeks for Lily's sake, the memory of them burned in his mind like a blinding afterimage. All he could think about was the day of his wedding to Lily. Marlene's uncontrollable fit of drunken laughter; Dorcas' half-hearted threats to leave her friend stranded there for making such a scene, all ruined by the smile that cracked across her own lips; Benjy's reluctance to dance, followed shortly after by his amusement at his own fiancee's efforts to outdo his terrible dancing when he finally agreed to.
That was the one that hurt Lily the most.
Every death destroyed her, each reopening a gaping wound that had no hope of ever healing. With every message from Dumbeldore, he saw her hope for the world crumble like charred fragments of something once beautiful. Every single one stabbed at her, gnawed at her insides until she was close to wishing for the same fate, but no other did so like Benjy Fenwick's. Benjy, a friend to them both, who had left behind a pregnant wife. Benjy who was tortured and killed solely because he refused to tell them information about their Harry. Benjy, robbed of the opportunity of knowing his child in a valiant effort to conceal theirs...
James understood. Peter would do the same for them and the guilt would kill him every bit as much as it killed the light in his wife's eyes.
Lily was thinking about them, too. Her eyes focused on the wall over his shoulder as their son tugged on her hair. Harry giggled, his bright green eyes looking up at her expectantly, no doubt waiting for the dramatic howls of pain she feigned each time, the same that never failed to make him laugh. But Lily merely blinked out of her trance, frowning down at their son.
"What is it, darling?" she asked him absently, gently pulling her hair away from his tiny fist. "Are you hungry?"
Harry stared back at his mother, the smile slowly vanishing from his face.
James tried his best not to sigh loudly in defeat, instead rising from his chair to take Harry in his arms. "I think Harry just wants to play," he told her. Lily glanced down at her son, something akin to guilt twisting her features. Before she could become even more upset, he quickly added, "I'll take him into the living room so we can be out of your way, yeah?"
Lily opened her mouth to say something, but he never found out what the words would be. She closed her mouth almost at once, nodding. Easily balancing Harry on one arm, James leaned forward to kiss her forehead before walking out of the kitchen.
The instant they were alone, James lifted Harry high over his head and grinned at him. The baby shrieked with laughter, his tiny arms reaching down in a hopeless attempt to snatch his father's glasses away. There was still a reason left in the world to smile and it was Harry.
The baby was beginning to grow too frustrated in his endeavour of capturing his father's glasses so James lowered him and sat on the sofa, settling Harry carefully on his lap.
"Are you going to sleep any time soon?" he asked the baby quite seriously. Harry looked up at his father, his sparkling eyes completely devoid of any signs of fatigue.
James felt his shoulders drop.
"Alright, I'll make you a deal," he told him in a wouldbe whisper. "I'll conjure up the pretty lights you're so fond of if you promise to fall asleep right away." James waved his wand once in demonstration, a neon pink wisp emitting from the tip. Harry clapped his hands in joy before reaching for the light. It vanished before his tiny hand could enclose it.
The baby looked up eagerly at his father, waiting for more with a joyous smile pulling at his tiny lips. "Remember," James went on, raising his wand again. "You've got to go to sleep at once. I've got an anniversary surprise for your Mum."
"Anniversary," James explained as though the child had any hope of understanding. "It's almost like your birthday, except I celebrate the day your mum went mad and agreed to marry me."
But Harry paid his father no attention, his green eyes trained instead on his wand. James chuckled, and shaking his head in resignation, he said, "You're not going to go to sleep."
Much to Harry's delight, he flicked his wand again, producing an electric blue light.
Harry's laughter resumed, growing louder with each burst of color. He bounced on his father's lap happily, throwing his tiny arms in the air to catch as many as he could. When they burst with a loud pop in between his fingers, his laughter overbalanced him, sending his body toppling over against his father's chest.
James laughed, helping Harry up.
"Dada! More!" Harry's tiny voice demanded delightedly.
"Can you say 'please'?" he asked in a mock stern voice.
James chuckled again. "All right, we'll work on that tomorrow," he told him before waving his wand again, leaving a burst of colorful lights in its path.
A third string of laughter mixed with theirs.
He looked up to see Lily, watching them fondly from the door, her arms crossed across her chest as she reclined against the doorframe. Her eyes, though on their son's ecstatic face, glistened with suppressed tears. Lily pinched the sleeve of her sweater, sweeping it inconspicuously under her eyes as she watched them. Harry giggled at the new eruption of lights and she laughed again, the sound almost foreign to his ears. Slowly, her eyes met James's and he felt a jolt in his stomach like he always did. After six years, he doubted it would ever go away. He hoped it never would.
"Dada!" Harry cried loudly to reclaim his father's attention. With a chuckle, James resumed his task of making the lights, murmuring something about jealousy being hereditary that Lily did not catch.
In between a fit of giggles, Harry threw his hand in the air, not to catch the orange light his father's wand had just produced but to sweep it across the air in sloppy circles instead. He tried again, his eyes fixed on James's arm, his own arm far too heavy for him to keep up for too long.
Lily laughed from where she stood. "There he goes again," she said in a resigned voice.
"What?" James asked, completely befuddled.
"He's copying you," she explained.
James leaned back slightly to better observe his son. "Why?" he asked, amused now.
"Isn't it obvious, love? He admires you." When James raised his eyebrows at her in disbelief, she laughed and continued. "He adores your every move, James. You could sneeze and it would be the greatest thing Harry's ever seen." She looked at their son, determined to continue mimicking his father's wand movements even if he failed miserably. "You want to be just like your dad, don't you, Harry?"
"A daft idiot?" James asked.
Lily laughed loudly at that, the sound slowly giving way to a soft sigh. Her eyes met his again and remained there, strumming at his very heartstrings. All remnants of humor or sadness were gone from her face, leaving behind nothing but those eyes he loved so much studying him intently. James smiled crookedly at her and Lily blushed, belatedly laughing at herself for the reaction. After shaking her head, she moved her eyes to his again. "I love you," she mouthed from the doorway, the words clearer on her lips than anything he had seen in his life.
After all they had been through— from the moment he realized he loved her until that very instant in their living room— he hoped for nothing more than to spend his whole life hearing those words.
"Love you," he returned.
His voice was a whisper, but he was certain that she heard the words. She always had. She always would.
"All right, Harry," she said loudly, her voice much more animated as she stepped into the living room. "It's time to get you ready for bed." She picked Harry up from where he sat on his father's lap. "Merlin!" Lily exclaimed, using her hip to hoist the baby up. "You've gotten so heavy, love."
"S'all the chips you feed me," James replied, the last word lost in a loud yawn. He let his wand roll out of his fingers as he stretched his arms over his head, his heart pounding with anticipation at the thought of Lily's surprise, cleverly hidden in the kitchen.
Lily threw him her best attempt at an unamused glare but her lips twitched at the corners as she turned on her heel with Harry. "Soon, you'll be walking around the house and then you'll really be unstoppable," she told her son.
Harry's attention, however, was not on his mother as it usually was when she spoke to him. Instead, Harry was watching his father over Lily's shoulder.
Something about James yawning caught the baby's attention and brought another smile to his tiny face. James rose to his feet to follow, and, catching sight of his son's beaming face as they neared the hallway, he sent him a reciprocating grin. A fascinated Harry continued to watch him, chin resting on his mother's shoulder, an expectant glint shining in his eyes as though he could not wait to see what his father would do next. Perhaps Lily had been right, as she always was. Perhaps it was true that everything and anything James did would be received with nothing but pure admiration from his son.
Something vastly bigger than him swelled in his chest and it felt as though the world would never be able to contain it.
As Lily and Harry neared the stairs with James close behind, his son raised a tiny hand to waive at his father like he usually did every night. It was the gesture Lily taught him when she gave up on teaching him the words "good night."
James grinned, ready to return the gesture.
He never could for he heard an unmistakable blast at the front door.