Disclaimer: Harry Potter not mine. Final Fantasy 7 not mine. No money being made.
I was beginning to wonder if I'd get anything posted this year, which is pretty sad. Notes at the bottom.
"Embrace your dreams. If you want to be a hero you need to have dreams... and honor."
Lily studied the read-out of the analysis, tracing down the columns of data with a finger. The subject was her favorite, the power beyond the locked door; the object, well… Professor Teague assigned her and her partner the objective of cataloguing and quantifying the power, something that had been an enduring mission for the department for over forty years now. Lily appreciated the search for knowledge for knowledge's sake, but she had a mission of her own.
Her free hand drifted to her belly, just starting to show. Especially now.
"Any change, Potter?"
Lily gave the data a last glance and shook her head. "Not that I see. I've run a comparison to the theory results from the Hodgkins, Reanult, and single-source hypotheses, and a couple of the variations thereof. It matches up best with the single-source-4, but even there it's outside five sigma…" Meaning, it was unlikely to be a true correlation. The witch handed over the parchment read-out to her partner.
The wizard took it, giving it his own study, checking for any significance she might have missed. Lily pushed back her seat and stood up, attributing her sudden irritation to a mood swing. The power, known in the scientific community as Sleighthome's Amorphous Solid or SAS1937, was first theorized in the wizard's 1937 paper and published posthumously; Lily knew the Wizarding community at large thought it was merely a thought experiment and questioned the usefulness of the SAS line of research. What was a solid that was not a solid, a liquid that was not a liquid, and a gas that wasn't a gas?
And not a plasma, either, Lily grouched, remembering how close she came to hexing Adelaide Richardt at the last meeting of the Order of the Phoenix. Adelaide was one of the Muggle-borns that didn't realize that actually, Muggle science didn't provide all the answers.
Her partner gave a muttered curse. "I begin to wonder if the SAS is the department's way of breaking it to recruits that we can't know everything…" He shared a frustrated look with Lily, and then went on. "It matches the single-source-4 best. That's the life current theory, right? That means there should be some tests we can run to verify or exclude it."
Single-source-4, life current theory, inspired by Sleighthome's original paper and pioneered by a former Unspeakable, Lily recalled to herself. She smiled slightly. Sleighthome died to produce the world's only sample of SAS1937, not even leaving a body behind. Unlike the Wizarding scientific community, Melliflua knew the conditions it took to create SAS, and accounted for those in her theory. Naturally, no one else took it seriously.
Lily took it very seriously. Absently, her fingers curled over the curve of her stomach.
"I can think of a few." The witch frowned. "But we'll need to be sparing; Teague didn't give us much of the sample to work with, and if we use it all without getting results, there will be hell to pay." She looked cautiously over at the wizard. "This is up to you – but we're in a unique position compared to the prior teams. A pureblood and a Muggle-born: we can test SAS from both ends of the spectrum, if you don't mind."
The wizard, a former Ravenclaw, didn't treat her with disdain, but purebloods as a whole tended to be touchy about releasing body matter for experimentation. Luckily, he seemed intrigued rather than offended. "Pity we don't have a half-blood as well," he commented, smiling wryly, "but I suppose little Potter's too young to take part. Your husband won't protest?"
"You know we aren't allowed to share our research without a specific release from Teague." Not that there weren't ways around that, but Lily knew better than to let on about the loose wording of her Vow. She became an Unspeakable for the Order of the Phoenix, and it was tacitly accepted that Voldemort also had a Death Eater in the Unspeakable ranks. "Are you sure you're willing to go through this?"
"Certain." Rookwood nodded, and his eyes took on a strange glint. "What did you have in mind?"
When Lily came to, she was screaming. For a fleeting moment, she thought she must have fallen into a Death Eater trap, because this sort of pain could only be the Cruciatus; her body felt like it'd been set on fire, her limbs were wracked with spasms and flailed out of control, her stomach clenched with cramps that felt more like being stabbed, and something liquid ran down her legs soaking through her underwear and stuck her witch's robes to the sides of her legs – blood?
No – no, no, no…
"Genesis!" she heard someone yell in the background, shouting over screams and sirens. "Call in the mission abort –"
Green light flashed in her eyes, and Lily felt the uncontrollable muscle spasms calm. Her arms immediately crossed protectively over her belly. The witch's mind worked feverishly, fighting through the pain to assess threat, not-threat. Green, but not the killing curse, not SAS…
SAS. Rookwood. The accident, but was it? It had to be…
She screamed again. A razor of agony sliced down her spine, and within her swollen belly she felt something contract. It was coming, too soon too soon too soon! As the pressure eased, another splash of blood soaked through her knickers.
"This will take more than Cure," the voice from before continued, calmer now. She felt hands pry her arms away from her belly and tried to fight, but the strength of whoever's hands was far beyond hers; just trying made her want to scream harder as it made the pain worse. "This looks like mako-burn…that would mean, the baby – Genesis, you have a Fire?"
"My friend, the fates are cruel," another voice replied, smoother but not so deep.
That seemed to be a yes, because Lily felt the hands move. One pinned her arms over her chest, and the other settled over her stomach. Realization sank in. The witch howled again, grasping with a mother's fury at the magic within her. She wanted vibrations, tremors, a shockwave of repelling power – SUCCUSIO!
It worked. As the magic left her like a metaphysical exhale, the air trembled with thunderous rapport and the pressure from the foreign hands disappeared. Lily returned her left arm to its protective embrace around her belly and scrabbled for her wand with her right. Fingers clenched around sturdy wood, and she cast the most powerful barrier spell she could muster in her haste. Then, ignoring the pain inherent in the motion, the witch swept her wand over herself in a diagnostic charm. Light blue denoted burns of magical origin, more severe where her clothes were thinner and fewer-layered; white light shone where her innate magic had protected her from harm; and bloody scarlet warned danger, pathogen, parasite.
The ripping and tearing at her spine wasn't birthing pains. Something was wrong with her baby, and it was the experiment's fault. SAS did this.
Lily felt something very like a noose tighten around her neck. She did this.
She had not harmed her child – the spell said it was a parasite, not a baby – the SAS research would not harm the Wizarding world her child would be born into – she had to try and save it.
The noose loosened, and breathing gratefully the air the Vow had denied her, would still deny her if it were truly broken, Lily brought her wand across and flicked her belly with it. Magic took over the out-of-control, premature birthing process; the witch held her wand tightly as her body seized, as the muscles in her stomach clenched as one, and she bit off another scream of pain as whatever held her baby – the parasite – within her let go. The squalling thing ripped straight through her forgotten underwear as it came, blood-encrusted fabric sticking to its crown.
Lily gasped, breathing deeply in an attempt to calm herself. It was human-shaped, but that was as far as the similarities went. The skin was rough and scaly but thick and firm like hardened rubber, and a cleaning spell revealed it was tinted with a bluish blush. Picking off the ravaged underwear from its head was worse; not only did it try to bite her – how did it have teeth already, let alone fangs, mother's teary mental voice screamed – but a ring of spiky deformations circled its skull, hard as steel despite the softness of the cranium, and it howled. It wouldn't stop howling.
This was what SAS did to an unprotected infant? Lily wanted to be sick.
I have to try!
She cast the diagnostic spell, to little avail. The entire body pulsed dark blue and bloody scarlet, intrusive magic internal damage and danger, pathogen, parasite; and at the edges of the spell-light, the delimiter shone a faded gray, going darker as she watched helplessly. It was dead already, just hours of agony away from the end. Something inside Lily crumpled.
…you have a Fire?
"Corpus inflamare," she whispered, and what should have been hers and James' first child burned.
"…in other words, results inconclusive," Lily summarized, placing the clipboard down on the desk instead of throwing it, like she wanted. This was just one more in a series of tests that tried and failed to explain why the SAS sample would have reacted the way it had to her presence. The witch hoped to start with that the Shinra scientists, with their superior knowledge of the material known to them as mako, would be able to answer the preliminary questions quickly enough for her to find a way home. There was no such luck, however; something about her, whether it was her biology, her origin, her magic, or whatever else, interacted with SAS such that it defied everything previously known about mako science.
Her frustration must have bled into her voice, because Dr. Hollander gave her a sympathetic look and pat on the shoulder.
"I put a job on the AIRES cluster to do a gene-by-gene comparison between your own genome and that of three others," he said, stepping by her to take the read-out and pass it to one of the lab techs to be filed. "It will probably take a few days of computing time to complete, but we should have some data to work with by tomorrow morning. I wrote the program to do the computation in parallel, starting with the more interesting segments of the genome."
She perked up in interest. A month ago, Hollander wouldn't have made a lot of sense. The Unspeakables had little use for traditional computers or even the high performance computing clusters like Shinra's AIRES, preferring to use the advanced analytics magic at their disposal, but Lily learned quickly.
"Is there anything special about the other genomes?" the witch asked. It could be cross-checking or redundancy. One didn't always know with Shinra. "What segments are we studying?"
"The T and S complexes, in particular," Hollander replied. He smiled ruefully at her. "As to the other, I'm afraid that's classified. I can tell you that while one is a generic human female, the other two are markedly different in their own ways; you'll be able to see that from the data."
Mako tolerance and magic affinity, Lily absorbed thoughtfully. Work as an Unspeakable had inured her to the annoyance of running into classified information. "What about the Hox complex? While the genes encompassed by it are highly conserved, due to being so vital, Holstadt's research proved there are slight differences between the Hox of a witch or wizard and that of a Muggle."
Hollander blinked at this. Bearing the inevitable scrutinizing with dryly-amused patience, Lily wondered if the other man suddenly expected her to do something strange and unnatural, like sprout wings or horns or something. Petunia certainly had. Although, why a geneticist would be so surprised to learn that people who developed magic would have minute changes in Hox from those who didn't, the witch would never know.
"The Hox will follow the T and S," the doctor said finally, acting as though he hadn't been thrown an unexpected quaffle. "And your people can breed with regular humans? With no complications?"
"As well as veela with werewolves," Lily rejoined, still amused. Hollander gave her an aggravated glance, probably because neither veela nor werewolves existed here. "That's a yes, doctor. Magic doesn't keep us from being fundamentally human – both of my parents were Muggles, and so is my sister."
"A stable, single-generation multigene mutation." Hollander's gaze was distant, probably calculating the probability of such a mutation occurring in nature. Lily had done it herself before; astronomical didn't come close to describing the odds. "That's absurd."
"It can also happen in reverse," Lily added, privately enjoying the man's consternation. "It's possible for a non-magical child to be born of two magical parents, as well, but Squibs are far more uncommon than Muggle-borns. I think the most recent census results gave about one Squib for every nine Muggle-borns."
Hollander eyed her. "These results are liable to be quite interesting," he commented, and left it at that. The geneticist crossed over to his own desk and sat down, spending a few minutes getting comfortable.
Lily settled down at her own desk, cluttered with sheaves of paper covered with scrawled shorthand. She hunted down a specific piece, jotting down the results of the previous day's work before adding it to the small stack beginning to accumulate in one of her desk drawers. Dr. Hollander did not seem to keep a laboratory log book, but Lily wanted to keep a record of her work with the Shinra scientist. He reminded her greatly of Professor Teague back at the Department of Mysteries. Middling height, slightly overweight, short-for-a-wizard salt-and-pepper hair and beard, usually friendly and devoted to science and its pursuits, Teague had a rotten side Lily had only seen once. Hollander shared his very knowledge-for-knowledge's-sake point of view on scientific research.
She looked up. "Yes, doctor?"
He was frowning at his monitor, rather than looking at her. "You've been putting in some very heavy hours the past few weeks," he observed.
Lily gave him a look. What brought this on? "I have… The research is important to me, and it isn't like I have much else to do." Except brood, she thought, and shrugged off the tightening at her throat. That thought wasn't safe for work. The witch scrounged up a rueful smile and continued, "After all, I got the impression I'm also considered classified to most non-scientific personnel."
"True." Hollander hmmed. "But while keeping you secret is in interest of public security, sticking you in a room and just pulling you out for scientific assistance would be hardly humane. I think I can arrange for some loosening of restrictions on your movement. You will most likely require a bodyguard when leaving the building, however."
He typed some more, and silence fell for a few minutes. Lily was simultaneously confused and relieved. She loved doing research, but before, she always had the chance to go home to Ja– to relax, Voldemort's war be damned. The prospect of a respite was nice, but why? She had the feeling she shouldn't ask.
After living in the Wizarding world since the age of eleven, Lily had thought nothing could bewilder her. Hogwarts itself was a marvel, Escher Square was a spectacle, and there were no words to describe the wonder and splendor of the Castelia Resort; but what Shinra had done with the city of Midgar was downright strange. It was not, however, to a witch's mind, a good thing.
Stepping out of the Shinra Headquarters was like walking into an unventilated potions brewery. The air was heavy, thick, and insufferably still, and it stank, overlaid with some odor that was almost familiar but not quite. Even Muggle London failed to match the suffocating atmosphere. Lily wanted to run back in the building and hide, or barring that pull out a bubble-head charm.
"What is that smell?" she asked, trying not to wheeze.
Her 'bodyguard' looked at her with some concern before inhaling. "It's reprocessed mako from the reactors," he replied. "The smell isn't as strong above the plate as it is below, but it may take some time to get used to, for someone not used to mako."
The whole city stank like this? And some places stank even worse? Lily had a new private project: mako reactor scrubbers. She would tackle that right after she finished designing an intra-nasal equivalent of the bubble-head charm. How could people live like this?
"Midgar is the planet's city of opportunity," he said, and Lily realized she'd muttered her question out loud. "People come here in pursuit of dreams that cannot be realized elsewhere… wealth for some, fame for others. Loveless Avenue. SOLDIER. Shinra HQ sixty-eight."
"I suppose without dreams no one would get anywhere." Lily tried breathing through her mouth, but gave up after a few breaths because she knew it looked stupid. She would just have to tolerate the mako-stench. "Loveless Avenue?" Hollander boasted to her about SOLDIER and Shinra Headquarters floor 68 was the lab of Shinra's head of scientific research, but the other was unfamiliar.
"Considered the performing arts center of the world. It's in Sector Eight. Is that where you wish to go?"
Lily considered. The witch wanted to know how Loveless Avenue matched against the Four Founders Performing Arts Center back at Founders Circle, but she knew firsthand just how expensive the latter was. A single play could cost a year's tuition at Hogwarts. She didn't know how much gil there was to a galleon, but her stipend probably wasn't that generous. "I doubt I could afford it," she admitted, disappointed. "Is there any place you would recommend?"
Her bodyguard looked away, having been studying her with curious intensity. "There is a café near the edge of Sector Three. The upper levels have an ocean front view and are relatively private. It is about an hour's walk from here, but there is a train that goes out to the plate edge if you would prefer."
"Walking is fine."
It wasn't like she was pregnant anymore… Lily stomped down the thought ruthlessly. She moped enough in private. A few minutes passed in silence, the witch eyeing her companion with curiosity. When Hollander told her Shinra Corporation would assign her a bodyguard whenever she left the headquarters, she expected to be saddled with an infantryman or two. Reporting to the entrance to find one of Shinra's prized SOLDIERs there had been a surprise.
Particularly this SOLDIER. Lily really should apologize for blasting him and his friend across the simulation room, but she avoided that floor in memory and practice.
"So." Wasn't that an awkward attempt to start a conversation? Lily sighed. "How long have you been in SOLDIER, Mr. Hewley?" He looked a little older than her, but given he was First Class and mako-showered, looks could be deceiving.
Hewley gave her another inscrutable look before he answered, but he did so with an undercurrent of pride in his tone. "Six years. I joined Shinra when I was thirteen."
So he was nineteen? To look at him, Lily couldn't imagine him being younger than her. It might have been because of his build, though. He was heavily muscled and very tall, with her head barely scraping the bottom of his chin. She supposed he had to be; one couldn't use an overlarge cleaver as a weapon without having immense strength to back it up. Compared to James, whose pureblood breeding preferred a duelist's slim and lithe frame, Hewley was a giant.
The only thing they had in common besides a fighter's spirit was black hair.
"I just graduated school a couple years ago," Lily commented, just to continue the conversation. Since they were in a public street, she was careful to keep things vague. "I've been working with the department for about a year… worked solo until then."
Hewley inquired politely about her solo research, and they continued through Sector Three. Six weeks and counting.
Materia were just another source of frustration for Lily. A form of crystallized SAS, the small orbs gave those who held them access to powerful magic, most commonly elemental invocations but occasionally skill commands or even powerful summons. A part of her was piqued by the very concept, magical power in the palm of one's hand.
The rest of her was just pissed that materia were useless to her, or apparently so.
Lily made a fist around the marble-sized green crystal, and then uncurled her fingers to stare at it in disgruntlement. It felt warm, and it made her palm tingle as it sat there; Hollander said it was a natural Lightning materia, capable of the minor spell Bolt1. Some subconscious instinct agreed, but no matter how hard she tried to follow the doctor's directions, it just didn't work.
"It's like I can feel the magic brushing against my mind and touch it, but I can't hold on to it," Lily murmured. She rolled it between her fingers and scrutinized it, trying to catalog the strange sensation.
"Do you think it is due to your origin?" asked Angeal, sipping his coffee. He collected the infant materia from her, his brows drawing slightly together the way they did when he was channeling the orb's power. "While young, it's a perfectly accessible materia."
Lily inhaled the steam rising from her mocha cappuccino. Though like the coffee it had a slightly different taste to it than the drinks she remembered from home, the witch found she preferred the 3 Oceanview Café's carobine blend over the arabica blend from home. "I believe so," she said slowly, taking a swallow. "Dr. Hollander tested it to make sure it wasn't a delayed-activation materia like Full Cure when I first had trouble, but - it feels foreign. When I try and draw on it, it pulls away."
"Have you tried an artificial one?"
Yes, and it felt dead. Lily grimaced. "It was even worse." The witch nursed her drink a while longer, and then added, "So far we haven't found a materia capable of anything I couldn't do on my own with enough study and practice, summons aside. It would be easier for an Auror or Hit Wizard, though." She smiled wryly at him. "The army and SOLDIER, respectively. James' dream was to become a Hit Wizard."
Angeal nodded, dark mako eyes taking on a look of intense interest. No surprise, considering how devoted he was to SOLDIER. "What sort of training does that require?"
"There's no standardized instruction. All Hit Wizards are self-trained, except in the rare cases where one takes on an apprentice. I think Frederich was the most recent one to do so, and he trained Dumbledore – I've told you about him," she added, seeing his inquiring look. "He's hitting around one hundred and thirty years old now, so that would have been about a century ago. It was a long commitment. The apprenticeship lasted thirteen years, and it's no secret that Dumbledore is a brilliant and exceedingly talented wizard."
Lily stopped then, taking a drink of her cappuccino to prevent herself from snickering at her bodyguard's face. The SOLDIER looked incredulous, and why wouldn't he be? Exceeding talent elevated him from cadet to First Class in four years. If Dumbledore, brilliant and talented and given a teacher, took thirteen years, how long did it take a common wizard? Thirty to forty, James had said when she asked, which was why most Hit Wizards were purebloods. Everyone else had to work for a living.
"The average time required for a SOLDIER to ascend from cadet to First Class is about seven years, if they can make it at all. Most can't," said Angeal thoughtfully. "Genesis and I took four, while Sephiroth took three. But we were outliers. I think it depends on how strongly someone cares about their dreams." He paused, looking down at her. "What about you?"
"Unspeakables offer openings to witches or wizards that show signs of promising research ability," Lily replied, and then fell silent. In her experience, that was about all she could safely say, but she turned other details over in her mind, testing them against the Vow that would strangle her if she said too much. "If they accept, there's a short period under a senior researcher before they're formally accepted and take the Unbreakable Vow." She winced, frightened for a second as finishing the sentence seemed to irritate the magic, but it settled again. "After that, it's classified, literally on pain of death."
"They hunt you down?"
"The Vow kills you," she corrected. "That's why it's called 'unbreakable.' No one breaks it and survives. It is possible to bend it a little, but it's highly dangerous." Lily gave him a serious look. "Once upon a time, you could trust that someone's honor would make them keep their word… not so much anymore."
Those words seemed to resonate with Angeal. "A world without honor is a sad world in need of saving. To be a hero, one needs both dreams and honor."
Lily smiled somewhat bitterly, thinking of another black-haired wizard that she'd called a friend until he proved once and for all that he didn't know what honor even was. "It's nice to know an honorable man."
The sixth month of her exile to Midgar passed without much notice, except that Lily finally accepted that she wasn't getting home. So did the seventh, and the eighth, and so on. She watched the Wutai war brew in the background and didn't question when Dr. Hollander moved her to a project that basically asked her to weaponize her abilities in a form the SOLDIERs could use. She stole one of Hollander's nicer interns for the work, reasoning that she was unable to use materia herself, and scratched out the beginnings of notes that would form the theoretical background of the Shield Materia.
It wasn't much different from working at the department, except here, the research went into keeping her bodyguard safe instead of her husband. Ha, both of them at the war front now.
But she had grown attached to Angeal.
Well, and somehow she had been promoted to professor when she wasn't looking. That was the only other change. Lily turned around, eyeing her borrowed intern critically. "What did I tell you about calling me that?"
He flushed, pulling his clipboard against his chest in a comical act of self-protection. "Don't."
"You act like I'm going to hex you… It's Lily," the witch reiterated, then dismissed it in favor of whatever he came to say. "What have you got for me?"
"Um… I Fourier-analyzed the Shield Charm frequency confluence data you gave me, and yeah, I got the peaks where you were expecting them." Seemingly regaining his equilibrium, the intern shuffled through the notes on his clipboard and turned it to display a graph plotting the energy density versus frequency. "I did a couple tests with a mastered Barrier materia – Barrier, Magic Barrier, and Wall…" More shuffling of paper, and then a graph like before, but overlaid with the Barrier data for comparison. "There's no statistical significance to a fit matching the Barrier spells to the Shield Charm, so I think we're go for the Shield Materia."
Lily took the clipboard from him and perused the gathered notes casually, carefully keeping the smile from her face as the younger scientist fidgeted. She lingered over the fit – it implied a higher proportion of Magic Barrier than Wall, interesting – before nodding at the intern's assessment. He glowed.
She sent him off with a smile and a swiftly-invented bit of busy work, and then settled down at her computer to type up the rest of the Shield Materia grant proposal. In doing so, however, her mind wandered to the email in her inbox from Hollander, received earlier that day.
There wasn't much of a difference between working here and working at the Department of Mysteries, except at home she was married and here she was available. Not that Hollander was interested (Merlin forbid!), but apparently someone else was. Lily supposed she couldn't blame Shinra for having a vested interest in any child she might have, but really…
She imagined her eyes peeking out from under a fringe of black hair, and her stomach clenched. Then she put it out of mind and focused on her research proposal.
"Well, Lily, it looks like you have a perfectly healthy baby boy," said Dr. Hollander, smiling like he considered it a personal success.
Lily returned it, hoping it didn't look as tremulous as she felt. He probably had a right to feel like that, since this baby was in large part a product of his efforts. Months of attempted implantations had failed, only finally for this one to stick.
"The fetal development at this stage is a bit ahead of expected. The neural tube has closed and the heart is beating, typical of four weeks, but we have accelerated development of the brain…" Hollander typed a few commands, and the ultrasound image focused on the fetus' head, where the three distinct parts of the brain could be distinguished. "As you see here, the hindbrain is already regulating heartbeat and breathing rate. That's usually seen at six to seven weeks past conception."
The witch nodded, not letting any surprise she may have felt show on her face. For the past month, she had swallowed a lot of initial reactions, unable to shake the feeling of unease that seemed to settle in as her body adjusted to accommodate the new pregnancy.
She still wasn't sure exactly how they had gotten her to agree to this.
"The most interesting part, though, is here." Hollander gestured to the forebrain of the fetus, tracing the sections of the limbic system with a forefinger. He tapped the amygdala. "The parts of the limbic system associated with association and emotion are developing parallel to the accelerated hindbrain, with the rest developing normally."
"That's not necessarily a surprise, doctor," Lily interjected. She wasn't an expert on pregnancy, and the geneticist knew it, but she was the resident expert on extra-dimensional natural magic users. "Although conscious control of magic can be learned, magical development begins as an unconscious response to negative emotions like fear or anger. It's a self-defense mechanism."
Hollander nodded, his expression thoughtful. There was that look again, like some old puzzle had suddenly become clear, and in doing so raised more interesting questions. Lily felt her unease spike.
Maybe he noticed, because the scientist relaxed and smiled. With a few deft strokes, he saved the ultrasound to her medical file and shut down the program. "All this about the baby, and I never thought to ask you, Lily dear. How are you taking motherhood again?"
Her heart jumped, and she knew that showed on her face. Taking it with trembling hands, now too aware of how easily it could end, toeing the line of her Vow all the while. Trying not to think about how it felt so much like replacement – one child for another, a SOLDIER for a Hit Wizard, because she was smart enough to realize who the sperm donor had to have been. "…Cautiously, Dr. Hollander."
"Understandably so, I suppose," Hollander replied, though after what happened to the last one remained unspoken.
This can't be happening.
Clutching her wand like a lifeline, Lily swiftly swept it through the motions of a sensor spell. The wave of magic washed outward in all directions with no visible effect, but a mental map of the nearby area build up in her mind. Dread, dull, lifeless – except for two figures that shone with the breath of life. Turks, she knew. Turks, coming for her.
One was coming up behind her. She wasn't too worried about him; as soon as she verified Hojo's warning, Lily had enchanted her clothing with an intrinsic shield spell, enough to stop dead any projectile targeting her. No, what worried her was the second Turk, moving away from her toward her destination, the Sector Three mako reactor.
They know what I'm planning.
Which meant they knew Shinra had lied all along. Well, duh, didn't everyone? Everyone knew but Lily, the naïve otherworlder with the potential to turn the SOLDIER program into even more of a powerhouse than it already was. Merlin, did Angeal know? It was hard to believe, but she had been so thoroughly fooled she couldn't be certain. Lily pressed a hand to her swollen belly, felt a kick, and swallowed.
I want James...
James was straightforward, James was safe, and she was going back to him. She just needed to make it to the reactor's reservoir.
Lily gave her mental model of nearby Midgar a moment of consideration, searching for another hidden away nook suitable as an Apparation destination. She wanted small, but not so cramped that there was a danger of splinching with a wall or strewed-about debris. Destination, deliberation, determination…
As the pressure died away, a storage closet swam into view. Then she bowed over and vomited into a convenient nearby bucket. The extreme nausea made Apparation dangerous for heavily pregnant witches, but Lily didn't have a choice. If she didn't get away from Shinra now, she never would.
She repeated the sensor spell.
Who would've thought Hojo would've been the one to warn her about what was up? Lily wasn't stupid enough to think it was due to kindness; she had looked up the records for Projects G and S, and the things Hojo did made Hollander seem like a good guy. If anything, he wanted to nip the newborn Project M in the bud to secure his own position. Either way, the scientist gave her the chance to flee while she still could.
Hojo was hardly trustworthy, but she checked anyway, just to be safe. Hollander's lab damned him.
Come to think of it, she thought, apparating again, the delay on my crematory enchantment should be wearing off soon. Lily grinned nastily in the darkness of an unattended restroom. She would like to see him use her DNA to make supersoldiers with everything in his lab turned to ashes and glass.
This time, directly outside the Sector Three reactor, Lily sifted through the results of the sensor spell with more thoroughness. There was the Turk, situated by himself in a room full of flat screens. A security outpost, most likely, especially as the reactor was alive with life signatures. She would have to fight through them all to get to the mako reservoir, the only place she could repeat the circumstances of the accident that had brought her here.
With one exception.
Lily reached into the pocket of her robes, curling her fingers around the Shield Materia.
This time the journey wouldn't cost her a child.
Lily can hear the chaos of combat downstairs, a desperate duel for time. Standing in his crib, Harry cocks his head, listening to the noise, but he takes his cue from his mother and is perfectly quiet. In all other respects, he is the exact child she dreamed of, her eyes a brilliant green under a fringe of slightly unruly black hair. Already she can see that he's going to be the picture of his father, and though it isn't James her husband seems not to care.
There is a muffled sound like a thud from below, and silence falls.
Lily strokes Harry's cheek with one hand and removes a luminous green orb from her pocket with the other. Harry reaches up, seizing her hand with his little fingers, and she smiles sadly.
She's not surprised it come to this. There were too many curious people when she returned from years of exile to find only a week had passed. There were too many questions, since surely she learned something useful while she was gone. There was the prophecy, and the baby that only now fit.
Born as the seventh month died instead of the end of October.
Lily removes her hand from her son's grip and replaces it with the materia. Here on Earth, the cost to operate the invulnerability spell is absurdly high, too high for multiple targets. There's no lifestream pull the spell together, to stabilize it. But there's a way to fix that.
SAS1937. Single-source-4. Life current theory. Mako energy. Project M. All of her research has lead to this.
Lily faces the nursery door and prepares to die.
 This fic may or may not have been an excuse to use magicoscientific babble. Contrary to fanon belief, magic being something that follows set, possibly scientific, rules is canon: see Golpalott's rules for blended poisons and Gamp's laws of transfiguration. It isn't a focus, unlike here, but it is canon.
 Hox genes. My biology major friend said my usage of them here made him want to cry. The Hox genes regulate transcription factors, which help control the way the body is put together (not related to the altered brain development Hollander talks about). He said replacing the Hox of a spider with that of a housefly would result in something like a six-legged spider. Also, the Hox of ape-like creatures are close if not identical, but I called magic on that one.
 The Shield Materia. Aside from the obvious, I had Lily create it because it's something of an oddity in the original FF7. It's supposed to be 'Extreme Magic Defense' and supposedly grants invulnerability against elemental magic and some physical attacks, but it's a delayed activation materia and for most people doesn't seem to do anything, let alone provide extreme magic defense. So Lily created it based on the Shield Charm, and it works wonky because it's based on a different magic system.
 I thought this was obvious, but just to be perfectly clear: FF7verse and HPverse are two different worlds/dimensions/etc. Lily traveled between them because a wizard did it. Specifically Rookwood, though not quite on purpose.