A/N – Ha! Finished! In the (2yrs, 11mnths?) since I began this story, canon has developed radically and so have my ideas, preferences, and my writing style.So to celebrate my third anniversary on this site, I present the very last chapter.
Sincere gratitude to all those who have reviewed this over the years. I would not have finished it without your encouragement.
Disclaimer – I don't own Harry Potter or any of the canon concepts. Don't sue.
Her mother had insisted on a church wedding. Given a choice, Lily would have chosen a small, discreet ceremony with a civil celebrant and only their closest friends and family as witnesses. However, Elizabeth Evans and Rosemary Potter were not to be denied. Despite – or perhaps because of – the constant, terrorizing Death Eater attacks, James and Lily were to have a formal ceremony, complete with all the trappings and traditions.
The Potters, after all, had a place to uphold in wizarding society.
Lily smiled. In the last few minutes before the beginning of the ceremony, she took a moment to grieve for Kate. There were times when she forgot, certain that if she turned her head she would see her sister, laughing at her with those cool, mysterious eyes so like hers, and so different. Kate would have appreciated the matriarchal manoeuvring, would have laughed at the skirmishes over the floral arrangements, or the precise way of folding the napkins.
But Kate was dead. And when she turned her head and saw nothing, the full reality of her loss would come crashing back to her once more.
However, time passed, and so did even the most crippling pain. She wondered if Luc, too, had begun to heal; she knew, if few others did, just how devastated he had been by Kate's death. She had not seen him in years – he moved in very different circles, now – but she had sent him an invitation anyway. Once, he had loved her sister, and Lily had believed that one day he would become part of her family.
There was a discreet tap on the door, and she called out distractedly, her attention fixed on fastening her earrings. It opened to admit Luc. Stunned, she turned around, her eyes wide and shocked.
"Don't look so surprised," he said dryly, seating himself gracefully, his expensive robes settling perfectly around him. "You did send me an invitation."
"Yes," she replied faintly. "But I didn't expect you to accept." Slowly, she regained her composure. "This is a muggle church, half-filled with muggle guests."
"So it is. However, the House has a major stake in the muggle world. It would look very strange if I could not at least tolerate them." He smiled. "You and Kate taught me that. Do you remember our muggle summer?"
In 1975, James, Sirius and Luc had spent six weeks of the summer holidays at her parents' house, three pureblood children experiencing modern muggle life for the first time. Kate and Lily had introduced them to wild parties and experimental drugs, rock concerts and protest rallies, and the kaleidoscopic whirl of a much faster, more dynamic world. Kate, calculating, had spoken to Luc of Hiroshima…
"I remember," she said, smiling almost maliciously. "Do you still believe muggles are filthy, primitive animals?"
He sat very still. "I have never believed that, Lily."
"Then why are you running with the Death Eaters?"
She wondered if he would lie, or prevaricate. He was capable of it, she knew, but their shared loss and the odd, mirrored intimacy of their situation – it could have been he and Kate, in their wedding clothes, once – had disarmed him enough that she had scored a direct hit, and he had shown it.
"Is it so obvious?"
"Only to someone who knows you."
He shook his head, slowly. "You don't know me, Lily. You only think –"
"No." She interrupted him. "No, I don't know you, not like Kate did. But there are some things even I can understand." She reached out and touched his arm, felt, with a hidden jolt, the instinctive stiffening of rejection. "I'm not going to say anything, Luc, because Kate loved you and would have supported you no matter what you did. But I will ask you a favour."
He looked at her for a long, long time, ignoring her tearing, painful resemblance to Kate. "Blackmail?" he said lightly.
"No. A precaution." Unthinking, she laid a light, protective hand over her abdomen. His eyes dropped to follow the gesture, and came back to hers, smiling ironically.
"I always planned to ask Kate to be godmother," she continued, despite the pain of could-have-been, might-have-been. "In her absence – secretly, of course…"
"You are aware," he asked her dryly, "of the prophecy?"
"Yes," she said simply, with ironclad Gryffindoric determination. "I am very aware of it. And I am determined to protect my son."
He held her eyes for a moment longer, and then bowed his head in acquiescence. "Very well. If it comes to it, I will protect him."
She smiled, stood up – silently marveling at his manners as he automatically stood up with her – and held out her hand in the cool, regal manner she and Kate had practiced, laughing hilariously, for the Yule ball in their fourth year. He took it, bowed over it gracefully, and then truly smiled at her, his eyes laughing and unshadowed. "Be happy, Lily."
She saw him to the door. "You too, Luc. Be happy."
She watched him walk away, her eyes pensive and thoughtful, until he was completely out of sight, and then closed the door firmly on the past.
She would never see him again.
31st October 1981
Heavy, fraught silence lay over Godric's Hollow. Making his way cautiously out of the woods and up to the house, his heart racing, he knew all too well what he would find – he was too late.
Behind him, a twig snapped. Luc flinched, whirling with his wand already drawn.
"Did you honestly think you could save them?" Lucius asked. Behind Lucius, Snape stepped out of the shadows.
Luc stared at them blankly, breath heaving, eyes feral and wary, before he finally relaxed and lowered his wand. "I would have tried," he said grimly. "Had I known, I would have tried…"
Lucius shook his head. Snape walked past him to stand beside Luc in the ruined garden. There was something strangely rueful in Snape's normally contemptuous eyes. "Fool."
Luc ignored them both. Pulling on a thin, supple pair of leather gloves, he pushed on the front door, hanging brokenly from its hinges. It swung open slowly, revealing wanton wreckage and destruction. He stepped inside, wand still at the ready, but it was all too apparent that there was nothing left here to beware.
"What happened?" he asked finally.
"I don't know." Lucius, graceful as ever, picked his way delicately through what had once been the living room. "Our Lord sought to prevent the prophecy coming to fruition." Luc grunted, disgusted. "Yes, I know, but he believes such things. He came himself, with two others, to see it done. We waited, but suddenly our Marks burned, agonizingly, before going…dead. When he did not return…"
"So you've come to investigate."
Snape's head snapped up almost guiltily at that, but Lucius grinned. "You could say that. You could also say," he paused to bend over and examine a slumped form on the floor, "that we've come to make sure he's truly gone."
Regaining his composure, Snape scowled. "Naturally we are all of us completely loyal to the Dark Lord."
"Naturally," Luc agreed absently, joining Lucius. "Potter. The Killing Curse, of course." He stood up, looked about him, noting two other corpses, black-clad and with their faces masked. "And the two others you mentioned."
"And the mudblood and the child?" Snape, deliberately baiting, did not get the reaction he desired.
Luc eyed the staircase. "She probably ran. There'd be fireplaces up there."
Upstairs, they could see a slight blood trail leading to a wrecked door, torn off its hinges, and as they came closer they could feel the hair on the back of their necks rising, their magical senses almost overwhelmed by the feel of hugely powerful magic.
"Merlin!" Lucius breathed. "What happened here?"
Inside, they found the slack, silent form of Lily Potter, curled protectively around the body of her child. There was no sign of Voldemort, or any indication of his whereabouts. Experimentally, Luc pushed his sleeve out of the way and exposed the Dark Mark on the underside of left forearm.
It was fading. Where, only an hour ago, it had been bold, black and raised above the skin, now it was sinking, the colour leaching from it as if it were being reabsorbed into his body. They watched it, wondering, and each one of them with an extremely private sense of relief. And then, as they were absorbed by the extraordinary spectacle, there came a very faint, very thin cry.
"Perhaps," Lucius said with remarkable cool, "there was some merit to the prophecy, after all."
Luc bent down to pick young Harry Potter up. The thin wailing gained force and volume as the child, severely disturbed by the events of the night, expressed his dismay and displeasure in no uncertain terms. Unused to young children, Luc winced. Lucius sighed, and reached over to take him himself. With sure, gentle hands, he cradled the baby against his chest, where he could feel his heartbeat and living warmth.
Snape and Luc looked on, amazed, but knew better than to comment.
"Well?" Lucius asked, once the noise died down. "Where do we go from here?"
"I have everything I want," Luc said quietly. "Now I'd like to enjoy it without fearing denouncement from either side…"
Lucius gave him a long, thoughtful look. As an elder brother, he was, on occasion, uncomfortably perceptive. "And the child? His grandparents are dead, and you yourself described the aunt and uncle as muggles of the worst sort. If I remember Lily Evans correctly, she would have made some sort of provision…"
As he spoke, the baby stirred, moved sleepily, and then turned his head slightly to fix on the sounds of their voices. Slowly, he opened his eyes.
They were green.
Lily's eyes. Kate's eyes.
The eyes of every single muggle he'd ever murdered in the name of his ultimately empty ambition.
Shuddering, he turned away.
"Let Dumbledore decide," he said flatly. "He will be here soon, I'm sure. The Potters were ever his favourites."
Lucius shrugged, not caring enough to argue. Snape acquiesced, something unreadable in his eyes, but then Snape had become difficult to read in the last few years. Lucius replaced the child in his mother's arms, and then, removing every trace of their presence, leaving everything exactly as they had found it, they apparated away.
Dumbledore and the Aurors would be here soon enough.
Far, far away, on the other side of the world, the woman who had once been named Kate Evans jerked awake, tears streaming down her face as she pressed a hand to her aching heart.
Comforting, calming hands caressed her, pulling her into his shoulder as she slowly brought herself back under control. "What is it?" he asked, gently, still not willing to believe his luck in winning this beautiful, fragile woman.
"Nothing," she said, a little thickly. "A nightmare." She was still shaking, but she leaned into his warmth and closed her eyes. "A terrible nightmare…"
Benjamin Greyson hugged her tightly and whispered that she was safe, that he would never let anything hurt her, ever again.
She could almost believe him.