James and Lily Potter held hands as they slowly trudged up through the familiar castle grounds as they headed for the Headmaster's office. Fingers entwined, the couple smiled as fond memories came to mind of their own time at the prestigious school that had seen so many of Britain's witches and wizards through their pubescent years.
"Lily," James pointed at a particularly clean and new looking suit of armor. "Remember when I enchanted that armor to sing and dance for you on Valentine's Day back in 5th year?"
The beautiful redhead besides the man threw her head back with a tinkling laugh and swatted his arm with her free hand. "You enchanted the bloody thing pink! Filch made you clean off the paint by hand if I recall correctly."
James Potter chuckled ruefully while running a hand through his messy locks, a habit built up over a lifetime that was both endearing to his wife and the source of endless frustration as it left his hair untamable for public events they had to attend on occasion.
"The old grouch made us clean the bloody thing with a toothbrush! Sirius always said that was the cleanest set of armor on Hogwarts ground." The couple shared a warm smile at the thought of their long time friend, and in the case of James best friend, who regularly popped in over to their modest home.
The couple fell into a comfortable silence as they steadily made their way through the ancient corridors, both enjoying the quiet presence of the other while pleasant memories surfaced with each familiar sight. The long route to the headmaster's office held the peace between the former Heads of their year, but before long they stood before the stone gargoyle that guarded Dumbledore's private chambers.
Clearing his throat, James spoke the password, making sure to enunciate the words carefully. The old gargoyle was getting on in age, and its hearing wasn't the best anymore, or perhaps it had a particular disliked towards the marauders for redecorating it one Christmas morning; it often didn't respond to the passphrases as it should whenever James or Sirius was alone.
Springing to life, the three foot statue stood up and moved aside as the stone wall behind it sank back nearly a foot with a rumble that shook into a person's chest. With a deep groan, the receding wall began to slide to the left, revealing a narrow brightly lit corridor that led to platform a good couple of meters behind the faux wall.
Hands still joined together, the couple headed into the lift. Without a word of command or a push of a button, the magical elevator began to ascend upwards towards the headmaster's office. James failed to suppress his grin as he remembered a many rides on this lift with a scowling McGonagall standing firmly behind himself.
With a silent barely audible ding, the lift announced its arrival and the two occupants stepped out onto the short hallway that led up to a majestic oak door with intricate ruins carved into the frames that towered over those that sought to enter. James pulled back a balled fist to knock, but before he could bring it forward the familiar voice of the headmaster drifted through the closed entryway.
The couple shared an amused look before stepping into the overcrowded office space of their former headmaster's workplace. "Someday you'll have to tell us how you seem to be able to tell when someone's at your door Albus.
The wizened old man sitting in his signature plush purple squishy armchair behind the massive ash wood desk chuckled at Lily's inquiry.
"I'm afraid that's a secret that's afforded only to the headmaster of Hogwarts my dear, though I must say, you would make a fine Headmistress."
The woman beamed at her former headmaster for the compliment while her husband pouted besides her. "You wound me headmaster! Surely you are not implying that I would not be worthy of said illustrious position as well?"
Dumbledore chuckled heartily as he indicated for the couple to sit on the two comfortable guest seats across from his own.
"I'm afraid that should I make that choice, professor McGonagall would resign her position in protest as would half the Hogwarts staff that had to teach you my dear boy."
Fawkes the phoenix, or as Sirius christened him the overgrown flaming turkey, gave what sounded like an offended squawk, causing another round of laughter amongst the three present.
"It would seem even Fawkes is prepared to resign as well should that decision come to pass," chortled Dumbledore merrily. "I'm afraid it's out of the question James. Tea?"
Pouring the couple before him a healthy portion of the steaming liquid from the magical self-refilling pot he kept in one of the many drawers in his desk, Dumbledore puttered about rearranging many of the materials on his desk to clear away space for the teacups.
Blowing on the steaming liquid gently, Lily took a pull from the brown liquid, savoring the English earl with a hint of tangerine. "While we certainly enjoyed the walk and tea Albus, I get the feeling this isn't a social calling."
The smile fell slightly from the elderly man before them and the couple exchanged a quick worried glance.
"I'm afraid you are correct in this instance my dear. I wish I had more time to understand what I have discovered, but I could not bear to live with myself if I kept this from you any longer." Reaching into his desk once more, the wizened man pulled out a glowing green stone the size of a fist before placing it on the desk before the curious gaze of the golden couple as the newspaper called them. The eerie light cast by the perfectly spherical stone appeared to be powered by an inner flame within the partially translucent gem, flickering and dancing to silent tune mortal ears could not hear.
"What is it?" The question from James was straightforward and blunt, punctuated with a frown that was often worn at the weekly meetings with the Order of the Phoenix.
"It's a lifestone isn't it?" inquired Lily with a frown matching her husbands, forehead creased as she tried to understand what it had to do with her family.
"Indeed it is," murmured Albus solemnly, hands stroking his lengthy white beard.
"I don't understand headmaster, what does this lifestone have to do with us?" The frown on James's face had deepened, the well worn frown lines aging his face considerably.
"A lifestone is linked to the life force of an individual so that one will always know whether they lived or had departed for the next great adventure. I have had one commissioned for every member of the Order of the Phoenix so that I will always know the condition of one of our comrades." Dumbledore's words elicited another worried exchange of alarmed gazes between the couple before him. Was someone they knew in danger?
"This particular stone I have not looked at for a long time because the light had extinguished from the stone many years ago. I kept it as a reminder of the cost of my own failing."
The redheaded woman leaned forward to stare at the glowing stone, forehead scrunched. "Well it certainly does not look extinguished anymore."
"Who's was it?" the question from James drew a weary sigh from the man he considered both a friend and a mentor.
"This stone belonged to Harry Potter."