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The pub was rowdy for a Tuesday night. Sing songs had erupted in one corner, a game of darts in another and enough beer to drown the entirety of the Order of Phoenix, including Hagrid.

It was a Muggle pub, favoured because Death Eaters never came to them and it allowed them some privacy to talk about the ‘serious’ issues. Like whether or not Wizarding girls were better looking than their Muggle counterparts. James had taken up the latter’s cause, defending them fervently.

“No, see, it’s the lack of inbreeding. Muggleborns don’t have six toes or any other extra appendages, nothing’s all mixed up and your wife doesn’t look like your cousin.”

“James, you’re pure-blooded, are you telling me you have extra appendages where you oughtn’t?” Sirius asked, grinning over what could only be described as a bowl of lager.

James sank back in his chair and raised his eyebrows. “The missus never complained.”

Sirius slapped his hand down on the table surface and laughed loudly. “Thanks for that mate, now I’m going to be stuck with visuals.”

“Sweet dreams dearest Padfoot,” James said slyly and upon going to take a sip from his schooner and found that the glass was neither half empty or half full. Completely empty, actually and he signalled to the busty barmaid to bring them another round. Barmaids seemed to be bred of the same stock no matter where you went.

Somewhere around eight shots of whiskey and four more pints of lager later, he and Sirius were stumbling from the pub, out into the chilly streets of London; arms around each others necks and laughing over something or other.

A sandy haired girl and her friend, a girl with ginger hair had accosted them in the doorway. Muggle girls certainly had their attributes, but some of the clothes they wore left something to be desired – short, spangly things in lurid colours that were completely ridiculous in the kind of weather they’d been having.

The sandy haired girl introduced herself as Milly and set about draping herself over Sirius. “Haven’t seen you around here before,” she breathed, laying the oldest line in the book on him. The ginger haired girl tried to look coy and confident as she sauntered towards James. The two of them weren’t unattractive, but they’d caked themselves with so much make up it looked as though someone had fired ink bombs at their face.

“My names Mandy,” she purred and tried to get closer to him. Probably just cold, poor dears, with half their dresses missing James thought to himself and sent a wry smile to Sirius who shook his head laughed.

“Married,” Sirius announced and the two girls looked a little put off by this.

“To who?” Milly asked crossly.

Sirius threw his arm around James again and kissed his cheek. “To him!”

Milly scowled momentarily and then changed her tactics, dragging a finger down Sirius’ chest in what James supposed she supposed was an alluring manner. “Who’s faithful anymore? Can’t hurt to have a little fun, me and Mandy could make you real warm,” she told Sirius, boozy breath wreaking badly enough that James could smell it from two feet in remove.

He’d been so fascinated by this poor display of courting that he’d failed to notice Mandy had draped herself over his person in a similar fashion and was actually petting a part of him that his darling wife had declared hers alone (there had been a ceremony, she’d smelt like lemon soap that morning and he remembered white sheets with red wine spilt on them because they’d been enjoying themselves a little too much. Her breath came in soft puffs as she’d laughed against his chest).

He jolted from his reverie and pushed the girl away from him abruptly, a little harder than he should have perhaps. She shrieked and tottering in her heels fell to the cobblestones, cowering as though he would strike her.

Her friend rushed to her aid, glaring up at James and hurling one of the most vicious and disgusting strings of curse words he had ever heard uttered. James just stood frozen, arms wrapped around himself. “Sorry.”

Thinking about her was enough to send him in convulsions. He shouldn’t have come out, not on a night like this, not after everything.

Sirius’ face loomed into his view, dark with concern and something else that he couldn’t make out.

A slick feeling of disgust sank through his insides as he realised what he’d done and how it looked. He tried to lean over to help the girl, but her friend was up on her feet, screeching at him and shoving him violently.

Sirius yanked James away from the scene, calling over his shoulder a few well-landed insults. He let himself be led, keeping pace with Sirius’ quick steps. Away from Milly’s piercing shrieks and poor Mandy in her too short dress and her too high heels.

Sirius pushed him into an alleyway and James leant against the wall, taking in deep lung fulls of air.

Sirius did a quick check of their surroundings and apart from smelling as though something had died in there, there was nothing to be concerned about. James watched his friend bounce around frenetically, figuring when Sirius was ready to ask he would, there was no burning rush and James felt as though he could use the time to compose himself, the drink in him still sloshing about and playing merry hob with his ability to balance.

Sirius stopped his pacing and became very still, staring at James intently. “You know I never ask, I never say anything when you drag me out at two in the morning and I get you to laugh and drink and I never ask,” he hissed, not angrily but this wasn’t exactly pleasant conversation. “But Jesus, James, you’ve got to tell me.”

James nodded to indicate his understanding, but said nothing as at that moment an inconvenient wave of sickness decided to make itself known.

“Is it Lily?” Sirius asked quietly, removing James’ glasses for him out of habit.

“Stupid question,” James gasped out, after he’d wretched at least 10 pounds worth of liquor and what appeared to be carrots onto the street. He didn’t remember eating anything carroty lately.

Sirius leaned against the wall with him. “Is it over?” he asked. “Are you leaving her?”

He pulled himself up, and stood unsteadily in front of his best friend, unsure of how to answer or of what the answer would actually be had he the words within him to reply. So he shrugged and slumped against the wall again.

He felt old and young all at once, scared like a little boy in an adult’s predicament.

This kind of thing didn’t happen to blokes his age and how in hell was he supposed to explain to Sirius what was happening? If she went through with it, he was fairly sure he’d never speak of it to anyone ever again.

Sirius waited patiently him to regain his bearings. James was fairly sure that he was at the point of internal combustion with all the questions he was burning to ask, but like a true mate and someone who had respect for a drunk’s right to silence and/or singing he kept his tongue and James was grateful, it was why he went to Sirius instead of Remus or Peter. Or even Frank, who had a better understanding of women than his Marauders.

“Right, my place then?” Sirius said jauntily, grabbing James around his waist and helping him up. “We might have to go about it the Muggle way seeing as we’re both incapacitated and all. “Don’t drink and Apparate” you know.”

James plodded along beside him, vaguely wondering if they were even going in the right direction and half way into not caring, he’d walk until collapse if he could.

“They need a better slogan than that,” Sirius rambled on. “Something catchier. Alliterative. Like “Don’t get wasted off your arse and Apparate” or something.”

James knew that Sirius was just speaking to fill the silence. Sirius had never really needed an excuse to natter on about nothings, but he could really get into some very serious rubbish when given the opportunity.

James keened to the left, feeling another surge of sickness coming over him and hoping he could make it to some bushes, a nice surprise for who ever owned the flower boxes he was headed for.

Doubled over in someone’s front garden, he suddenly had a sense that something wasn’t right, he straightened and turned around just in time to see two Death Eaters materialise behind Sirius and hear the resounding CRACK that followed.

He was on his feet, running towards them, thankful that he had sobered up enough to at least keep upright. Sirius had been hit with a Stunning Spell and was fighting off his attacker, James recognised that it wasn’t going well and no thought of running came into his head, he’d see it through.

Throwing out his wand arm, he tried to disarm the closest Death Eater but his opponent had all the advantage: a sober mind and a steady hand. He didn’t even hear what the spell was that hit him, but he sure felt the impact as he was slammed into a wall.

He could hear the terrified screams of the Muggles in the neighbourhood and felt a twinge of guilt for bringing their war into their lives. He fell to the ground and tasted the coppery tang of blood in his mouth and shards of glass digging into his cheeks, a sickening pain in his side told him that some of his ribs had been broken.

He hoped Sirius was holding up his end of the fight better as his attacker loomed into view, barely distinguished against the night sky. The only thing that James could truly make out was the pearly white mask on his face, protecting the identities of cowards too ashamed to fight like men or to own up to their pathetic allegiance.

Prostrate with pain it had occurred to James that he was likely going to die and never know his murderer’s face.

James snarled at him, hoping that he looked at least a little intimidating, not pathetic and broken curled up into a ball to protect his injured ribs, coughing up his own blood.

“Show me your face!” he spat and his reply was a painful burst of the Cruciatus curse. He screamed and uselessly flailed on the street, muscles seizing and tearing as the torture continued. As suddenly as it had come over him it stopped as well and he was left panting and crying, spitting blood and dirt and hoping he hadn’t begged in his desperation.

The first coherent thought in his head was of revenge and through the blood in his eyes he glared up at his masked murderer. He wouldn’t go down as a victim and in his slightly addled mind he connected going down with a fight as fulfilling his promise to protect Lily. At least they’d have something prettier to tell her in the morning, as if the thought of him dying with some dignity would be a comfort to her. He didn’t care what had been said this afternoon, of the complexity of their situation now driving them apart as he lay on the cold ground slicked with his own blood he just wanted to see her again.

Sensation came back into his hands and he felt his wand beneath him. In his eagerness, the Death Eater must have forgotten to disarm him. He smirked as his fingers gripped the wand and he tried to focus his fractured mind.

“Coward,” he hissed and silently cast a disarming spell, sending his torturer flying. He sat up and gasping aimed the same spell at the other Death Eater who was still apparently fighting Sirius if his eyesight was to be trusted. He struggled painfully to his feet, using the last of his strength to stun one of the Death Eaters and send his Patronus to Dumbledore. He staggered a few feet towards Sirius before collapsing.

He lay in the hospital, his throat was dry and his body felt like it was bruised from head to toe. He looked over to his left and fount Lily sitting there, resting her head in her hands.

He swallowed his guilt and reached across to her “Hey.”

She flinched and sat up straight, her eyes wide with fear. Deep hollows beneath them and tear stains running down her cheeks. “Oh thank god,” she whispered, her hands running over up his arms, over his chest and through his hair. He caught her fingers in his own and stilled her.

“I’m so sorry,” he told her miserably, wrenching up the most sincere look he could manage, hoping his face could still allow motion.

“No, no – I am. I mean, yes, you are an idiot and if you ever run off like that again I will kill you myself, but I didn’t mean those things I said, I was scared,” she said quickly, her words running into one another, her hands trembling in his.

“Is Sirius…?” he started to ask but she frantically cut him off.

“He’s fine. Burns and a two broken ribs, but he looks a lot better than you,” she answered quickly. “Oh James, you…this is worse than Greenwich. I thought you might…” she trailed off and tried unsuccessfully to smile for him. She looked so tired, but nothing about her suggested weakness, not even now.

“Are you okay?” he asked her gently.

“I’m…” she looked confused and desperate as if she didn’t know how to answer. She looked down at her feet and when she looked back up, she reminded James of a scared little girl, asking for reassurance.

“You’ll be okay,” James told her confidently, brushing some hair from her eyes and pressing a kiss into her palm.

“I want this, James,” she said quietly, her voice barely a whisper. “I want to have it. I do.”

His eyes were watering a little as he realised what this meant for them. He’d been such an idiot to just storm out like that and leave her alone, should have seen through her threats and screaming that she was just terrified. Like him, though their reactions had been so different. When things got tough for them Lily always lashed out like an animal backed into a corner, James tended to run, unable and unwilling to face a failure in anything so important as his marriage.

He gripped her hand tightly, the white of his knuckles showing against the purple of his hands and she and him just stared at one another, the despair ebbing from his mind and the feeling like he was being torn up on the inside fading into a memory.

Lily sniffled and then laughed as she wiped the tears from her eyes. She covered her mouth with her hand and James saw genuine happiness for the first time since she’d told him.

He reached out for her face, running his fingers over her cheeks and lips, glad of the chance to touch them again.

He knew if she’d gone through with the abortion, the baby wouldn’t have been the only thing he lost. He wouldn’t have been able to face her. Frayed tempers and the weight of a war on their shoulders already, it might have been the very thing to push him over the edge and he knew what it would do to Lily, knew that despite her bravado and insistence it would have been for the best that the guilt would have been too much.

Crying and aching, he pulled her close and held her.

A/N: So...I updated. Next chapter also written, surprisingly. It was supposed to be confusing as to which time frame James and Sirius were and then over what exactly James was so torn up over, only revealing things towards the end. I hope that it worked out okay.

Now, be honest, how long would you like this to continue? It's an AU so I am making this up as I go along. I can't see me rewriting all of the books to fit this universe, but I thought maybe it could follow James for the first year after Lily's death. Thoughts?

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