a/n: for hope, for your birthday. i know this can't do anything to make up to you, but i wanted to try nonetheless.

warning: established sibling/sibling relationship from the very beginning. if incest bothers you in any way, do not read on. if you do read on regardless then please don't come bitching to me in a review because all i'll cry over is your stupidity.


perishable gods

there are things sadder
than you and i. some people
do not even touch

-—haiku, sonia sanchez


In Paris, they are Libby and John. Her hair is brown and his is blonde and she can't stop laughing when she looks at him. He keeps making unhappy faces down at her, but he kisses her back all the same and that night finds them sat on a bench staring up at the Eiffel Tower curled around each other like the world might stop if even an inch of space appears between them.

The next morning, the French papers scream, "HARRY POTTER ARRIVES IN FRANCE TO SEARCH FOR HIS SON AND DAUGHTER," and by the afternoon they are gone.

x

In Prague, she leaves her hair red (it's his favourite) but changes the shape of her face and he opts for a new look entirely, hair cut shorter than short and glasses switched for contact lenses and a most unbecomingly large nose. She can't look at him without wanting to hit him but it's okay because at night, in the privacy of their hotel room, they revert to their normal appearances, green and brown eyes and long messy hair and noses too similar for comfort pressed up against each other.

Three weeks and then she spots Teddy in a marketplace near the Dancing House and they are gone before the lady on the corner has run out of seed to feed the birds with.

x

New York as Jamie and Leo (he laughs every time he says her name and their waiter at dinner one night can't stop wondering why), Montreal as Rose and Scorpius (she gets a particular kick out of that one), Tokyo as Abby and Matthew, and then they are feeling a little too accustomed to running.

So one night when she has her head pressed under his chin so hard it almost hurts, he pauses in stroking the long red length of her hair and says, "Fancy walking on the wild side, Lil?" Her head shoots up and those green eyes laugh down at him and once she's done kissing him again she whispers, "Obviously."

x

London in the rain is everything they remember. They get coffee at their favourite place, eat at the first restaurant they went to in disguise to have a proper date, wander through St James' Park for hours (she whines until he lets her feed the ducks and when he is forced to capitulate under the force of her most desperate expression she leaps up to kiss his frown away and passers-by smile at the sight of young love). They use a sneaky bit of magic to gain the top of Constitution Arch and they sit astride the centre horses and make believe like children again, until the distance between them feels like suffocation and they slip down beneath the tangle of bronze hooves and spend an hour getting lost in each other.

Four days and then somebody spots them and screams, "It's them! The Potter kids!" and the man isn't finished raising his camera by the time they've apparated away.

x

In Athens he wakes up at four in the morning and finds the bed empty beside him. When he wanders through to the sitting room of their flat he is stopped by the physical beauty of her against the window. Naked, silver in the moonlight, her hair tangling over her shoulders and down around her elbows like fire someone caught and wrought—he thinks that if anybody saw her now they'd think one of the goddesses had come down off Olympus to check on Athene's Acropolis and been frozen somehow against the floor of his living room.

"Lily," he murmurs, and she turns so slowly he thinks she's sleepwalking. But the moonlight just catches at the tears running down her cheeks and she holds up the magazine in her hands to show him and just says, "James."

He crosses the room and takes the picture from her, folding her against him as the sight of his parents' drawn, exhausted faces makes nausea rise up inside his throat.

"It's okay," he whispers, tossing the magazine into the bin with barely a thought, "We knew, Lils, we knew it would be like this. This is best, best for all of us, I know, I promise. Lily. It's okay, I promise."

"I just," she gasps against his bare chest, but she doesn't finish and he's glad about that.

The next morning she apologises and he says not to ever and she smiles somewhat hesitantly. That afternoon they skip town again.

x

In Rio de Janeiro the distance feels enough and the guilt eases off and the games begin again. She is Carla, he is Rob, and their lives for a brief moment feel like epic love in a Taylor Swift song. Reality reasserts itself when they're a little slow to cast the appearance-altering spells one morning and the waitress bringing in their breakfast recognises them with a cry. (The wizarding world's greatest hero losing two of his children is apparently still worldwide news, who'd have thought.)

Zurich, and her hair is brown again.

x

They get to St Petersburg and see the sights and she is Andromache and he is Hector and one midnight he finds himself on the balcony wondering if the originals ever felt their doom quite as keenly as he does.

He remembers a picture of a baby being tossed over impregnable walls and thinks, maybe.

x

In Bombay one afternoon finds her bent over a toilet, white and shaking, with his hands pulling back her hair and his mouth littering kisses over the smooth pale skin of her shoulders.

"A baby, James," she sobs, and he just keeps kissing, keeps pulling, like silence will turn the situation inside-out.

x

Hong Kong, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Moscow, Sydney, and she is starting to show. James, despite the fear, finds himself fascinated nonetheless. He spends hours in strange cities sat with her, his hands running over and over the curve of her stomach, kissing her and holding her and loving her ever more for this.

"I don't want to abort it," she murmurs to him one night in Wellington. "I want to keep it. Him. Her."

James is quiet for so long that her hands move to his face to find out what has turned him mute. Her fingertips find tears and he kisses them dry, unable to stop crying.

"So do I," he breathes, "Oh, so do I, Lily."

x

He makes a plan, and the surprising thing is probably that it works. He spends hours upon hours in Muggle internet cafés while she reads baby books, propping them up on the swell of her stomach. She stops asking eventually, and James doesn't tell her what he's looking for.

She doesn't guess, either, until the car drops them off at the end of a driveway and James sweeps her off her feet and runs with her, laughing and whooping and exalting, all the way to the doorstep of a little white cottage with roses rambling round the doorway.

"Oh," she gasps, as he kicks the door open and bears her through, "Oh, James. It's perfect. It's every dream house I ever drew."

James, who spent longer than he cares to admit watching her draw those houses as a child, laughs and sets her down in the middle of her kitchen and then just kisses her and kisses her and kisses her, long and deep and lingering, until her head swims and her hands can't keep still against his skin and she almost forgets that they've found a place to stop running.

x

They settle down there so easily it's impossible to believe. The villagers have barely ventured ten miles away, nobody's ever heard of magic, and nobody gives them horrified glances when they touch too long in public. They get smiles, make friends, even go to church to make sure they are fully integrated (Lily sits with her head in her hands the whole way through and James is the only one who realises that it's because she's laughing and not praying).

They get married when Lily is seven months pregnant and nobody seems to mind that she's walking down the aisle with a baby bump. (They sign their names as Lily and James Prewett on the register and hope that their grandmother takes it as a compliment if she ever finds out.)

x

When their big day comes, the local doctor cycles a mile through pouring rain to reach the big bedroom where Lily is trying to hold back screams. A neighbour comes too because she's the closest thing to a midwife the village has, and Lily grips her hand and curses James more foully than she's ever cursed anybody in her life (which is saying something) but he doesn't leave her side for even a second.

They both cry when their child arrives early the next morning, and the doctor and midwife can't stop smiling.

"A beautiful baby girl," the doctor congratulates, and as soon as she is in Lily's arms James climbs up onto the bloody bed next to her and wraps his arms around her and they think that maybe nobody in the world has ever been so blissfully happy.

x

The next day James apparates to Belfast to send an anonymous letter from a big city post office to their parents. He tells them that they're both sorry, that this is the best way, that he couldn't have been apart from Lily for all the acceptance in the world. Love is love, he tells them, And we've only got one lifetime to feel it with. He apologises to Albus too, tells him he has a niece named Zoe, and that they're happier than he could imagine.

Then he obliviates the clerk to make sure nobody has any recollection of him ever being in that place, and returns home to his family.

x

That night, Lily cries for her lost life for the last time. Then she takes her daughter in her arms and settles down against her husband and promises him, "This is where we start."