Chapter One

The End

'Lily, take Harry and go! It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off –'

Lily scooped Harry up in her arms and fled the room. Under different circumstances, she would never have left James alone. Every instinct in her would have been screaming that she must stay and fight beside her husband; that if they were going to die, they should do so together.

But she had another instinct in her now: that of a mother. The mother's instinct in her told her that she must save Harry, and the mother's instinct was stronger than any other. Harry's safety was more important than anything else. More important even than James, though it just about killed her to leave him behind.

The numerous safety arrangements worked against her now as she realised she couldn't apparate out. Glancing out the kitchen window she discovered that the house was surrounded by Death Eaters. No hope of escaping out the back door then.

In a desperate attempt to buy time, she dashed up the stairs, Harry still clutched protectively to her chest. She found herself in Harry's room, searching frantically for some way to defend herself, or better still to escape. There was nothing. Her wand was downstairs somewhere, carelessly set aside in the foolish belief that they were safe. That had been her first mistake. She ought to have known that they were never safe.

Grabbing a chair and some boxes that were scattered around the room, she attempted to barricade herself in. It was pointless – she knew that – but she had to do something. She couldn't just give up.

She and James had escaped Voldemort before, often against all odds, but this was the most desperate situation they had ever been in. She truly could see no way out. She didn't even have a wand to fight him off with, and that made her incredibly vulnerable. She could only hope that James was faring better.

He was not. Standing in the front hall, knowing it was only seconds before Voldemort smashed through the door, he had given up all hope of himself surviving. All he dared hope for was that he might be able to buy some time for Lily and Harry and that they might somehow make it out.

His mind flashed to their Secret Keeper and several things clicked into place. Wormtail's secretive, almost guilty behaviour; the way he'd been avoiding meeting James' eyes; his reluctance to become their Secret Keeper. They'd all known there was a spy in their midst, but he'd never once considered that it might be one of the Marauders. His friends would never betray him, or so he'd thought.

His only consolation was that Wormtail really hadn't wanted to become their Secret Keeper. Perhaps he had betrayed them, but at least he hadn't wanted to.

James felt like he ought to be angry with his so-called friend, but somehow he couldn't manage that right now. All he felt was a deep sadness for Peter, the poor boy who'd always been the weakest of the four of them, and who would never find the happiness that James had found, even in his very short life.

'I forgive you, Wormtail,' he said softly to thin air, before turning to face his last enemy.

The door flew open and Voldemort stepped through, wand gripped tightly in his hand. James found that he was no longer afraid of this man. Now that he'd accepted what was going to happen he felt a deep sense of calm. The worst thing this man could bring was death, and there were worse things by far than that.

'Step aside, boy,' Voldemort hissed, 'I have great respect for you and your wife. Bring me the boy and I will allow you both to live.'

James snorted. He doubted Voldemort had ever respected anyone in his life.

'No,' he said firmly, 'Take me instead. Kill me, and leave Harry alone.'

'Very well,' Voldemort sneered, 'I will kill you, if that is your wish. But it is a pity. I do hate to kill someone of such pure blood.'

'Just kill me,' James said again, 'Not Harry. Kill me.'

Voldemort raised his wand. James took a deep breath. Goodbye, Lily, he thought, I love you. Goodbye.

And then there was a flash of green light, and the short but wonderful life of James Potter came to an end.

Up in the bedroom, Lily felt a change, like her whole world had been knocked sideways. She felt James leave, and a part of her soul left with him. There was no grief, though. Not right now. She wasn't sad that James was dead, because she was sure that in a few minutes she would be joining him, and that made her happy. Alive or dead: it didn't really matter so long as she and James were together.

That was when she remembered Harry. Sweet, innocent, beautiful little Harry, who had a whole life ahead of him that he deserved to get to live. Tears began to pour down her cheeks as she thought of what her son was about to lose.

She dropped him into the cot behind her and threw herself in front of it, desperately trying to shield him from Voldemort, who now stood in the doorway of the room.

'Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!' she cried.

'Stand aside, you silly girl ... stand aside, now ...'

'Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead –'

Voldemort raised his wand.

'Stupefy!' he said, and she only had time to scream Harry's name before the world went black.