Lily felt extremely groggy and achy when she opened her eyes into what appeared to be blinding white light. After blinking awkwardly for a moment, she realized that the light was merely reflecting off all of the white bedding and walls in the Hogwarts Infirmary. She briefly wondered why she was even in the school hospital wing to begin with when she should be at home, but then it all came back to her like a ton of bricks. Voldemort. Avery. Torture. Their escape. James. James…
She instantly became more alert and tense, sitting up abruptly on the bed. She winced from her quick movement as she realized she was in more pain than she had first thought, but before she could even attempt to comprehend where her husband was, she found herself face-to-face with her very concerned best mate. “Oh, Lily! You’re awake. You have no idea how great it is to see you back…and ok… We were so worried about you.”
Lily was barely able to focus on Christina before the girl had thrown her arms around her. Lily feebly hugged her back, but she really had only one concern at the moment. Her voice was slightly hoarse when she finally spoke, “James, Chris. Where is James?”
Christina froze around her, and that movement caused Lily to become even more frantic and worried for her husband, particularly when she remembered the exact state he had been in when she had last seen him. She pulled away from Christina and began looking wildly around for him. All of the beds were empty except for one, but that bed contained a young student. Her heart started racing. Where was he? She turned her attention back to the blue eyes of her best mate. The worried and saddened expression on Christina’s face did little to alleviate her panic. She could feel tears starting to form because she was so stressed out. She started shaking her head, the panic starting to consume her. James was her everything. She needed him. She wasn’t sure she would be able to make it without him. He couldn’t possibly be…gone. No way. “Where is he, Chris? Don’t tell me…”
Christina immediately shook her head, her blue eyes getting bigger. She quickly tried to shush her by soothingly rubbing her arms to calm her down. “No, no, no… He’s not…” She drifted off, not saying it, but rather continued hurriedly to correct the misunderstanding as soothingly as she could, “Sweetie, he was in bad shape when you two arrived. He fell unconscious within minutes, and Madam Pomfrey rushed him to St. Mungo’s for treatment she couldn’t give him here.”
Lily was not relieved in any way with her words. He obviously had been extremely hurt if Madam Pomfrey had needed to send him away. She started talking quickly and panicked, “But is he alright now? How long have I been here? How long since we got back? Is he still—“
Christina cut her off as she shot a mildly apprehensive look back toward the nurse’s station, “Shhh… I wasn’t supposed to get you all hyped up whenever you awoke. You need to rest. You weren’t in the best shape either. I need you to calm down or Madam Pomfrey will have my head. I’ll tell you everything, but…please relax. For me, ok?”
Lily closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths to relax, but her worry didn’t go anywhere. Instead of voicing it this time, she merely opened her eyes back up and locked onto Christina’s fiercely, silently demanding information. Christina took a deep breath herself, but her face was just as worried as Lily’s when she finally spoke quietly, “You both got here four days ago. Madam Pomfrey knew James was in worse condition than you were so she only did a couple things to check you out before just knocking you out so you could rest and she could work on him first. Only you would get married to the most stubborn man I’ve ever met…” She paused and then looked at her nervously, “Lily…I know I have no idea what you guys went through or if you saw any of it, but James, well, he must’ve been tortured daily for hours at a time. Healer Hodel, the Head Healer in the spell damage ward where he’s at, told us that it was amazing James lasted as long as he did. He hasn’t regained consciousness yet, and although they were able to take care of his outward injuries, his internal injuries—including his multiple broken and shattered bones and heavy internal bleeding—are not responding to any magic at the moment. Healer Hodel thinks James’ magic is interfering, which seems crazy…I mean…well, no one seems to understand it. Until he regains consciousness or becomes more responsive, they are just keeping him stabilized. No one has left him alone. Sirius has been there daily since your return. He comes by at about 4pm to give Lauren and me updates, although there hasn’t been any change so far.”
Lily felt herself start shaking as she again thought about the state her husband had been in when she had last seen him and how she could only now really begin to understand the depth of it. Everything Christina had said was ringing inside of her head, but she knew that her best mate was saying things…nicely…rather than telling her every last thing that had been or still was wrong with James because Christina knew that she would probably freak out. Lily supposed that was quite true. She closed her eyes briefly as she fought desperately not to think about everything that had happened to her and James while they had been stuck with Voldemort. She instead focused on her concern and her desire to be near him. That was all she wanted. “When can I go see him?”
Christina’s brow furrowed as she looked down into her lap. “Madam Pomfrey told me that once you woke up for real, she would only keep you for one more night, just to be safe. You had a host of problems yourself. She said…”
Lily gazed over at her when she drifted off and noted her hesitant look. She prodded her friend quietly, “What?”
Christina bit her lip as she mulled over whatever she wanted to say. She started hesitantly, “I just don’t want to talk about what happened to you unless you want to talk about it. I know Dumbledore will probably ask you some things so they can best try to help James and maybe figure out where you both were, but still…”
Lily’s eyes glazed over as she thought about all that. Her voice may have been soft still, but her words now came out rather dryly, “Thanks, Chris, but I’m sure you all have a rough idea from the injuries.” She paused as her mind began to litter itself with her horrific memories— images of Avery and his wandering hands during the long walks to her cell along with hearing the taunting words of Voldemort as he tried to pick her brain about James, her job, the Order, or her blood status. After a moment, she added almost inaudibly, “There’s more to it than that, but it’s all things I’d like to forget. I only want to see James.”
Christina nodded slowly back at her friend as she fought hard to hold back all of her own questions, fears, anger, frustration, and despair at what her best mate and her husband must’ve been subjected to. Seeing Lily in such a desperate state, where she didn’t look collected or confident in anyway, made her wince inwardly. She wished desperately that she could help Lily through this, but she knew it would take a lot of time. Not only that, but if anything happened to James, she wasn’t sure what would happen to Lily. She did the only thing she could at the moment— she changed the subject. A lot of stuff had been going on over the last three weeks on their end and at least it would be a distraction for the time being.
After a brief check-up from a rather relieved looking Madam Pomfrey, the girls talked all afternoon. Despite most of Lily’s thoughts still remaining on her husband, she made a determined effort to listen to Christina talk about everything that had been going on here. With the two of them gone, morale for the Order and the Ministry had been at an all-time low; especially since everyone knew that they both had to have been alive somewhere as Voldemort would have exploited their deaths had that been the case. Lily had merely nodded along to all of this, but she had been surprised by how their lack of presence had affected things so severely. She supposed that it was more about James than her, with them both being the last remaining members of a very old wizarding family and all. When other deaths were mentioned as being tossed into the streets of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade as warnings, she had paled considerably. Most of them she had witnessed personally in Voldemort’s chambers. She had visibly winced when she had heard some of the names. That wasn’t even that bad when Christina mentioned all of the chaos that had taken place just after they had escaped. Apparently, Voldemort did not take that too well. The wizarding villages and surrounding muggle communities had been viciously vandalized in an obvious need for Voldemort to make a point that he was still a force to be reckoned with.
Lauren had joined them shortly after classes had ended, and Lily was once again thrown into an impossibly tight hug from the petite girl. She had known that Lauren thought of her as her sister now, ever since she had married James, so she was happy to at least remove some of the worry and stress from Lauren’s face. The worry didn’t go away completely, but considering Lauren was just as concerned for James as she was, Lily hadn’t really expected it to. After getting each other up-to-speed once more, they all waited with bated breath for when Sirius would visit them so they could hear if there had been any change to James’ status.
However, none of them were prepared for when Sirius finally came through the door. As soon as he had seen Lily sitting up and awake, his face immediately brightened and he quickly transformed into his dog form, ran up to them, pounced on Lily, and covered her in dog kisses. Lily couldn’t help but giggle as she tried in vain to shove him away. Sirius had always been one to make stressful situations amusing so tension didn’t fester. She supposed it was something she loved about him. “Ewww, Black. Stop it! That is so gross… I don’t know how Christina stands it. Besides, your form is supposed to be a secret, remember?”
Sirius took that minute to hop down and transform back, and Lily noticed a mischievous tint to his grey eyes along with what she assumed was supposed to be a glare. “I have a bone to pick with you, Red.”
Lily was too curious about whatever he had to say that she pushed back her questions about her husband for the moment. She would allow him his distraction. “And what’s that?”
He was completely solemn as he answered her, “I loathe your cat.”
Lily was extremely confused as to why this was relevant or even worth saying, but both Christina and Lauren became immersed in giggles at his words. At that sound, Lily’s lips twitched uncontrollably into a tiny smile. “Umm, I suppose I should ask why?”
Christina’s smile was huge. “You should have seen them both, Lily! He and I have regularly been checking things back at Potter Manor so imagine our surprise when Misty has basically tried to attack Sirius every time they are in the same room together. It happens almost daily actually…”
Lauren smirked and added pointedly, “Apparently, being a dog animagus means you pick up a few of their natural enemies as well.”
Sirius just huffed at the two of them as they resumed giggling like mad. Even Lily couldn’t help giggling at him a little. “Go ahead and laugh it up, ladies. I suppose turning into a dog and chasing her didn’t help all that much, but I couldn’t help myself…”
The somberness of the underlying situation seemed to return to them all rather quickly though, but Lily didn’t have the heart to question him too in depth at the moment. She was sure he was just as concerned as she was. Even his joking manner couldn’t hide the worry behind his grey eyes. If there was another person she knew to be as close to James as she and Lauren were, it was Sirius. She settled for just quietly asking him, “So?”
His grey eyes looked away from her briefly before returning to her hopeful and questioning gaze. He looked slightly disheartened now. “Still no change.” He tried to be positive though, giving her his trademark grin and a wink before adding as lightly as possible, “I’m sure he’ll perk up now that you will be with him so no worries just yet, Red.”
Lily nodded, but couldn’t exactly smile in return. She hoped that evening and night would go by quickly. She only wanted to get out of there and be with James.
It was the next morning and Lily was walking with Sirius toward James’ room in St. Mungo’s. It had been a long evening. Madam Pomfrey had kicked all of her visitors out shortly after Sirius had arrived. She had checked her over more thoroughly before ordering her to rest completely or she wouldn’t give her the ok to be released. Lily knew that it was an empty threat though because if Lily didn’t still have some residual pain in her ribs and didn’t know that she probably needed the rest before she could go and be strong for her husband’s sake, she would have been gone already. She supposed she had also known that Dumbledore would be coming to speak with her which had been another reason to remain there. She had dreaded that moment considerably though; she really hadn’t wanted to discuss everything just yet.
Sure enough, Dumbledore had come to see her later that night. Unfortunately, she couldn’t be all that helpful in regards to what James must’ve gone through. Dumbledore had only nodded at that. He had also been understanding about her reluctance to talk about anything too specifically about her own experience, but he had urged her to share at least their escape through memory with him because it could be extremely important in helping the Order determine Voldemort’s whereabouts. Lily had been more than hesitant about giving him that horrible memory, but only conceded after Dumbledore had promised not to show it to anyone other than himself. He had promised to destroy it after he viewed it. She had closed her eyes and had seen the memory clearly in her head, considering it had been an ever-present nightmare continuously playing there anyway. He had removed it quickly, but even taking the memory out of her head hadn’t made the memory disappear. She could still remember every detail, see every little sneer, and hear every little taunt from that night. He had soon left her so she could rest, but she could see that he was beyond relieved that the both of them were both safe and back, even if James was still in bad shape.
She bit her lip and ducked her head as she made her way through the hospital hallways. After freshening up that morning back at the manor, she had made sure to bring her black cloak which had a hood to hide her very red hair so she could keep a low profile. She tried in vain to ignore all of the questioning looks she was getting as she and Sirius headed toward her husband’s room. She knew that the Healers and probably the patients on the floor had been told to give her some space, but that didn’t stop the uncomfortable stares. He stopped her at the door. “You go on in, Red. I’ll be out here if you need anything. Just let me know, ok?”
She nodded and watched him as he went up to an Auror that was keeping watch on the floor. An Auror had been stationed there since James had arrived, considering that he had been in Voldemort’s custody and would probably continue to be a target even while he was at the hospital. Lily had heard that Sirius normally held that post during the day and was probably going to relieve the other Auror now that he was here. Lily braced herself and walked through the doors by herself. She stretched her gaze out and felt her heart pound when she finally got a good look at him. It was odd, considering from far away he looked as if he were merely sleeping since all of his outward injuries had been taken care of. As she walked closer, she began to distinguish the differences. He looked a bit stiff in his posture and his face was far from being as relaxed as it normally would be if he had just been sleeping. She supposed there would only be a few people who would be able to notice the difference – probably just her and maybe Sirius or Lauren.
She took the seat next to him and ran a finger over the side of his face softly as she tried to keep her emotions in check. Her voice tremored slightly when she finally managed to speak, “You’re a stupid, noble prat, you know.”
She couldn’t help but feel disappointed when there was no reaction from him at these words when he normally would have given her that devilish grin of his or would have chuckled some. She forced herself to continue, “We’re all worried about you. I’m not sure what you are doing to yourself, but you need to stop, sweetheart.”
She glanced back at his face as tears stung her eyes. It was heart-wrenching to look at him like this. He was normally so strong that it poured over into her and made her feel that way too. “I need you, you know…more than I had really thought too so you can’t just give up. I won’t let you.”
She finally took his hand into hers and was shocked when she suddenly could feel the utter exhaustion seeping through him at that moment. She was reminded of that time when he had warded her home after they had returned from Miami. That feeling of exhaustion she had felt then was only a sliver of what she could feel now. Her brow furrowed and she felt her heart falter as she fought to grasp just what he must’ve gone through wherever he had been locked up. She remembered every moment that Voldemort had been upset over not breaching James’ Occlumency which was indicative of just how many times Voldemort had tried to hurt him; how many smirks she had seen just behind the masks of some of the Death Eaters, probably after they had tortured her husband profusely when he could do next to nothing in return; and the exact state he had been in the night the two of them had finally escaped that horrible hell. She lifted his hand up to her lips and rested her elbows on his bed as she suddenly grew very tired. She was openly crying now, but she could no longer help any of it. She finally just whispered softly against his skin, silently willing him the energy he needed to overcome whatever he was holding back from, “I love you. I’m going to be right here waiting so don’t you make me wait too long, Potter.”
She didn’t know how long she sat there, but at some point she remembered laying her head down next to him, her fingers playing with his hand as she listened to him breathe uneasily. She smiled softly as she noticed his wedding ring still present on his hand. She closed her eyes and let herself succumb to the exhaustion that was closing in on her. She made sure to murmur one last thing to him before she allowed herself to drift off, “By the way, happy birthday, sweetheart.”
Sirius glared at every incredulous patient and Healer that looked over at him or his best mate’s door over the last few hours. He had volunteered to stay with James during the day because he wanted to be one of the first people available when he finally woke up.
James was his brother in every sense of the word and had been his only real family for as long as he could remember. He glanced at the door curiously, silently wondering if he should go check on Lily or not. She had been in there since that morning, but it was now almost the end of his shift and she hadn’t left once. He made a mental note to force her to eat something if she was going to give up caring for herself as she worried about James. He had already given Christina the duty to ensure that Lauren ate things back at Hogwarts while his girlfriend had been staying with Lily these last few days.
He was relieved of his duty within the hour. It was another one of the trainees in his class, Paul Wokowski. He nodded to him. “Hey, Paul.”
Paul gave him a weary smile. “Any change?”
Sirius shook his head, glancing back at the door with a frown. “I don’t think so.”
Paul gestured to the door. “His wife’s there now though, right? She’s finally better?”
Sirius nodded, stretching a bit after standing so stiffly for the longest time. “Yeah, she’s there. I’m going to go check on her and see if she will come with me to get something to eat. She hasn’t left all day. If she won’t come, I’ll probably be back down here with some food to get her to eat something.”
Paul gave him a grim smile. “I can’t imagine what my wife would be like if I were in that position right now. If you have somewhere to go and she stays, I’ll keep an eye on her for you. Moody has already said you have a couple extra things to be doing.”
Sirius chuckled. “Thanks, Paul.”
Sirius then made his way over toward James’ door and opened it carefully so he wouldn’t startle Lily. He looked up toward where the bed was, but stopped short in the doorway. Lily was leaning forward in her chair, having fallen asleep at some point. She was resting near James’ stomach on one of her arms while the other was thrown casually across his chest. However, what had shocked him was that James’ hand was resting on the back of Lily’s head, and it had moved through her hair soothingly. When he glanced up incredulously at James’ face, he was disappointed to see that his best mate was still out for the count, but it was different somehow. James finally looked like he did when he was merely sleeping instead of being out cold like he had been previously. Sirius couldn’t help but grin widely at knowing that James might just start responding to magic now. He had no idea if Lily had done anything, but he still felt she deserved all of the credit for bringing his best mate back from whatever abyss he must’ve been hiding in.
He quickly and quietly backed up toward the door again to see if he could find Healer Hodel around here somewhere. However, he couldn’t help mumbling out excitedly, mostly to himself, as he left, “You go, girl. I’m so glad he never gave up on her…”
Agony. That five letter word was the only way to describe the feeling when James felt himself start to wake up. He squeezed his eyes shut even tighter and bit back a deep groan of pain, as he had no idea what he was waking up to. His breathing sounded more labored than before as he struggled to wait it out, but he was soon rewarded with nothing more than a constant, dull throbbing throughout his entire body for his patience. This he could handle. He had been able to put up with that for a long time now.
When he finally opened his eyes slowly, he was surprised to find himself in the dark. Not only that, but he was quite sure he was in the Hogwarts hospital wing and not the cell he had been stuck in for so long. His brow furrowed as he struggled through his foggy memories. After a few moments of contemplating the darkened ceiling of the infirmary, he found himself piecing together a whole host of his memories, but especially the last thing he remembered— the night of their escape.
His heart ached for his wife. The more he remembered from that night and the nights prior, he really just wanted to see her. He wanted to see her, hold her, and just make sure she was alright. He immediately began squinting around the room without moving as much as possible. His heart skipped a few beats when he noticed a very familiar shape with red hair cuddled up in a conjured armchair next to his bed. He vaguely remembered seeing Sirius conjure a similarly styled one a few years back in their dorm at some point. He frowned briefly at realizing that if his best mate had conjured his wife that chair, then she had obviously been there for a while. Considering she had had injuries of her own that had needed to be attended to, this worried him. How long had he been out?
He hissed softly as he forced his sore right arm to search for his glasses, since he knew Lily would have kept them near his bedside. He didn’t have to search for long because his fingers easily found what they were looking for. As quickly and painlessly as he could manage, he put his glasses on so he could look at his wife more clearly. Merely seeing her again made him feel like he could do anything. She may have had dark circles under her eyes and didn’t look nearly as relaxed or as happy as he would have liked, but she was there all the same— whole, healthy, and very much alive. For that, he was more than grateful.
He always enjoyed watching her sleep, the handful of times it had occurred. She was beautiful to him in many ways, but the simplicity of watching her at her most vulnerable was something he found to be breathtaking. He found himself staring at her. Merlin, he had missed her. He watched her sigh in her sleep and shift slightly in discomfort. He frowned a bit at that, knowing that she couldn’t possibly be all that comfortable sleeping on that chair. When some of her hair fell over her face as she shifted, obscuring her features from view, he couldn’t help reaching out, ignoring any pain the movement would cost him, and moving the strands behind her ear once more. He hadn’t looked at her properly in so long, and he was not about to stop now all due to some unruly strands of hair.
His wife stirred again, only this time he caught a glimpse of those beautiful green orbs he had desperately missed. She blinked a few times before she met his gaze head on, and he was concerned when she appeared quite startled at seeing him awake. He again ignored the pain running through his right arm and brushed her cheek gently to soothe her before mumbling out a somewhat croaky, “Hey, you.”
He heard her breath intake sharply, and as she let it out, she spoke in amazement, “James…you’re finally awake.”
He grimaced inwardly as his fear that he had been out for some time was confirmed. He instantly tried lightening the mood by joking, “Is that what this is? And here, I thought I was in heaven…”
His heart leapt when he noticed her smile at his attempt. She even scoffed playfully as her soft fingers ran over his hand and forearm. “I cannot believe that I actually missed your charm.”
Her words were light, but he could see the deep concern, fear, and complete relief swimming in her expressive eyes. He ran his hand through her hair and the side of her face as he rememorized everything about her. He was beyond grateful to be out of that hell and to be with her once again. “I missed everything about you, Lils.”
That seemed to break her completely. She immediately started blurting out incessant amounts of information in a hurried fashion in such a way that her worry was even more pronounced than it had been already. James was mildly horrified to hear some of the things that had been going on in their absence, or the bits and pieces he was able to collect from Lily’s rambling, but when he noticed some tears starting in her eyes as she continued to ramble on, he shushed her quickly. He hated seeing her cry. He gently wiped the tears starting at the corner of her eyes as he interjected, “Shhh… I’ll be just fine, you’ll see. We can talk about all that in the morning.”
She nodded some as she sniffled and took a few deep breaths to calm down. He hated seeing her like this and wished he could just hold her right now. He suddenly didn’t care that he was in pain so he shifted over slightly with a grimace and pulled on her arm. “Come here.”
She looked at him like he was crazy. “James, you’re hurt. I can’t lie next to you right now.”
He was more stubborn than she was, and his hazel eyes locked onto hers, intent on trying to convey that he was not going to be dissuaded. “I know you’re not comfortable in the least in that chair, and I want you to so get your cute self up here this instant, Lily love.”
She stared him down for a moment until he could tell she had conceded. She was really careful not to lie on him, instead opting to lie next to him by resting her head near his shoulder. He let her hug his arm to her as she began to get comfortable. He wished he could move more comfortably himself or wrap his arms around her, but that would have to wait a few more days. He was incredibly stiff and sore at the moment. Just feeling her lying next to him was more than enough right now. He instantly felt twenty times lighter than he had before and was finally able to feel as relaxed and at peace as he had before all of this had happened. He turned his head, inhaling the sweet scent of her hair, before kissing the top of her head, the little movement he was able to handle just now. His voice was more emotional than he thought it would be when he spoke into her hair, “I love you.”
She tightened her hold on his arm as she answered him in a sort of muffled fashion, “I love you too…so much. I’m so glad you’re alright. If…I mean…”
He reached his other arm over to run down her side to calm her some, biting his lip to hide the pain that the action caused. The way she was talking, things must’ve looked pretty bad for him. “I’m sorry you had to go through all of that.” He paused some before asking her out of sheer curiosity, “How long have I been out?”
He heard her sigh helplessly, and he was positive she didn’t really want to think about him the way he had been. Well, either that, or it was the fact that she knew he should be resting right now. Her voice was soft and a bit pained as she quietly admitted, “Almost two weeks now.”
James’ brow furrowed. He tried to grasp what the date was in his head then, considering he remembered they had been with Voldemort for at least three weeks before they had arrived here. He was fairly certain as he asked, “So I missed my birthday?”
She nodded against his shoulder, but didn’t say anything further so he added somewhat concerned, “Did I miss yours too?”
She shook her head and stated softly, “It’s in two days.”
He felt his heart beat faster at this, making him feel very much alive again. He had woken up in time for her birthday. He gently picked up her hand that had been resting carefully on his stomach and kissed each of her fingers. He murmured against them contently, “Happy early birthday then, beautiful.”
He felt her small smile against his shoulder and that made him feel like the luckiest guy in the world. He no longer cared about any of the pain so long as she was there with him and happy. That was all that mattered to him. She sighed in pretend exasperation and poked him very gently in his side. “Must you always be charming?”
He grinned widely. “Yup.”
Lily shifted against him, pulling herself up higher so she could kiss him gently on his lips. When she pulled back to look at him, he noticed a fairly stern expression on her face, even though he could see in her eyes that she was just as happy as he was. “You should get some rest. Madam Pomfrey will hurt me if you aren’t fully rested. I promised that I wouldn’t distract you.”
He chuckled, but grimaced slightly when that hurt him more than he thought it would. “Lily, you being in the room distracts me so it looks like you have been breaking that promise since I woke up.”
She gave him a look and was about to retort at his further attempts at being charming, but he just ran his hand down the side of her face as he gazed up at her. He understood her concern so he continued softly, “I’ll get some rest. Come on, lie down.”
The two of them got as comfortable as the situation would allow them to, but it was hard for them both to fall asleep. Both of them had finally gotten what they had wanted for so long— each other. Sleep was the furthest thing from their thoughts. Instead, they found themselves telling each other anything and everything, from what they had gone through individually over the past month to what had been going on in their absence to what the Order and all of their friends have been doing. Only the other could give them the ear they had both longed for. It was the wee hours of the morning before sleep finally claimed them both, almost forcing them into slumber practically against their will.
Lauren pouted at James. She just wanted his support about this, and he was adamantly being stubborn all in the name of her safety. He really needed to realize that she was only a year younger than he was. Her frustration was just fitting to burst so she finally just vented out, “Will you please just hear me out? Merlin, talking to you is like talking to Aunt Judy when she wouldn’t tell us our Christmas presents!”
James snorted, but a tiny grin flickered across his features against his will. “I always knew I’d turn out like my Mum.”
She threw up her hands and sat in the chair next to his bed in the Hogwarts Infirmary. It had been about a week since he had woken up. He was pretty much at full strength, hence why he was fully dressed and just lying on his hospital bed like it was his dorm bunk up in the tower, but Madam Pomfrey was adamantly keeping him there for one more night because he had winced obviously when he had picked up a few things that had fallen to the floor a few hours ago. As soon as he had awoken, his recovery started moving along infinitely quicker. Lauren attributed this to Lily constantly being around when she wasn’t back at work, naturally, but James was also incredibly resilient. She gave him her best big, innocent eyes that had gotten her anything she had ever wanted from her Uncle Drew. “I’ll talk to Madam Pomfrey about letting you out of here today if you back down and just agree with me, Jimmy.”
James narrowed his eyes warily at his devious little sister. She played hard ball, but he was never going to agree to this. Yes, it was true that he would love nothing more than to leave this stupid hospital wing and be with his wife— alone and away from everyone finally. However, he would never see her get hurt. She was his responsibility now, whether she wanted to be or not. It wasn’t an obligation that he was fulfilling in this role; he wanted to be this person for her, especially if she was going to be making such hasty decisions as this. Why she wanted to join the Order was beyond him. Had she not just witnessed what had happened to Lily and himself? And she still wanted to be a part of this? He was also going to be talking to her about wanting to apply for the Auror program. That was not exactly the safest thing she could be doing, particularly when Alastor was pushing trainees through the program at an almost insane pace. “Just because Dumbledore has placed an impossible ward on the hospital wing to keep me here is no reason for me to bargain my wants for your safety. Tomorrow isn’t THAT far away.”
Lauren humphed at him when the look didn’t work like it had for her uncle. He really was more like her Aunt Judy than she had initially thought. The look hadn’t worked with her either. He wasn’t going to be dissuaded at this so she was going to have to beat him at his own game. She was just as stubborn as he was. She just needed the right ammunition. She let her gaze stray over to his face, studying him intently, but when that little smirk of his started to creep up along his features, evidence of him thinking he had won, inspiration in the shape of a very pretty woman with red hair hit her. She knew exactly what she was going to do to wipe that smirk right off of his face. “Are you saying you let Lily participate in the Order?”
James’ face instantly hardened at her insinuations about him being controlling, particularly because they were far from warranted. He snorted, “I don’t let Lily do anything. She is her own person. She’s also just as stubborn as I am, and that’s saying something.”
Lauren smiled triumphantly as she listened to him put his foot in his mouth by admitting all of that about Lily, especially when it really ought to apply to her too. She quickly began to make her case before he tried to backtrack, “I am my own person too, Jimmy. Just as she wants to make a difference and push for what is right, I want those same things. I know the danger just as she, and I still want to do this. I’m only telling you because I know you would want to know. You can’t make the decision for me.”
He pursed his lips and looked utterly pissed off. He knew that his eyes gave away that he now understood where she was going with this, and a part of him knew she was right. However, that didn’t stop him from pointing out the truth behind her words, even if she didn’t want to admit they were true. “But you still want my approval.”
Lauren felt her smile slip away as she realized he was right. She looked away from him with a sigh, hoping she had reached him with her last efforts since she really had nothing more to convince him with. She conceded reluctantly, “It would make me feel better if I had your support, yes. I am eighteen now, but you’ll always be my big brother, Jimmy.”
He stared her down for a few moments before running his hands through his hair in frustration. He grumbled at her, “Must you always play the big brother card? You know it makes me cave all the time…”
She squealed and threw her arms around him. “Yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
He hugged her back gently before pushing her away so she was standing in front of him and he could look into her eyes. To him, she still seemed a bit naïve about some of this, but he couldn’t begrudge her the chance that he had been given. Hadn’t he been somewhat naïve when he first joined the Aurors? Wasn’t she as advanced in DADA as he had been in Transfiguration? If he could learn, then so could she, and she was more than capable. She could take care of herself, for the most part. That should count for something. He eyed her pointedly before saying, “I’m not happy about this, but I’m going to trust your decision. It’s more dangerous than you might think, but I do know deep down you are more than capable so make sure you never let your guard down. Ever. Understood? I can’t be there all the time. And…” He paused before adding resignedly, “I know that Alastor would be a fool not to add someone as talented in DADA as you into the Auror program in a month. Make sure you fill out your application properly.”
Lauren smiled widely at him and kissed him quickly on the cheek before jumping and dancing around him. “Thank you, Jimmy.”
He rolled his eyes at her antics before lying back moodily on the hospital bed that had been his for the past however many days. He reluctantly grabbed one of the many Auror texts he had been studying since he had ‘woken’ up. If he couldn’t go anywhere or do anything, he figured he might as well catch up on all of the training he had missed while he had been away. Sirius had been more than happy to bring him all of the work he had missed, although James knew that Sirius was actually looking forward to dueling him and winning for a change. James was going to make sure that would never happen. He had a reputation to uphold. “You’re welcome. Now go and have fun watching the Gryffindor quidditch final that I’m not allowed to go see because I’m injured.”
Lauren immediately stopped dancing, holding her hands on her hips in scolding. “You know that’s not the reason. It’s because Dumbledore knows you’ll just leave.”
He glared at her. “So what? I’m fine.”
She snickered at him. “I’ll tell you how it goes, but you’ll probably be able to hear most of it through the window. It starts in like an hour, right? I should probably go meet Tasha. You should just finish your work anyway. You said you’re going back in tomorrow because you need to get caught up. You don’t need to watch the match.”
He nodded half-heartedly at her, telling her goodbye as he watched her skip her way through the extremely complicated ward Dumbledore had placed on the hospital wing so he wouldn’t be able to leave. He narrowed his eyes at the doorway and windows menacingly before turning his attention to the spells he was supposed to learn. If he was stuck here, he was going to be productive, and that was that. He was able to pay attention for a while, but after an hour or two, it became incredibly hard for him to focus. He looked moodily around the room, searching for what was distracting his concentration. There was no noise, other than the cheering from the field, and nothing seemed out of place. However, he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong.
It was an odd feeling to have. His thoughts strayed to the only other time he had ever felt this way in the castle. It had happened only once, but that single time was ingrained in his memory. It had occurred in his fifth year, and he had literally dragged the Marauders out for a late night stroll around the castle to burn off the weird energy, but he had ended up finding an unconscious first year Ravenclaw lying on the ground outside of her dormitory. Dumbledore later told him that if they hadn’t decided to take that late night walk, the girl probably would’ve died. She had been a muggleborn diabetic, who had tried to get help for herself the moment she had felt an attack coming on, but she hadn’t made it farther than just outside her own dormitory. The girl hadn’t made that many friends yet and had told no one about her plans to walk to the hospital wing late at night so no one had known she had been gone. Dumbledore and McGonagall had called it sheer dumb luck, but James had never mentioned to any of them how he had felt that night— how he had strongly felt the random need to walk around the castle because something had felt…off.
He found himself gazing out the window a second time at the quidditch final being played out over the pitch. Nothing seemed amiss, but the feeling to leave the hospital wing and go there instantly was there nonetheless. He shook his head as he realized he had moved without even noticing toward the window to look more closely. Why did he feel this way? Why was this happening to him? He was nobody special, right?
That’s when it came to him, something that he should’ve realized right away, now that he was aware of the connection. He was the heir of Gryffindor. If anyone was going to feel danger at the castle, it was going to be him.
He froze suddenly when the cheering from the quidditch match seemed to get exponentially louder, but there was a difference this time. The cheers were no longer happy. In fact, the cheers quickly shifted from being cheers to nothing more than screams of terror. The atmosphere around him became heightened and frenzied, and he knew that the danger was already here. He punched at the invisible barrier on the window and glared at the doorway when he realized he wouldn’t be able to leave and help. At least Dumbledore would likely be at the match. He pushed away his worry for Lauren and the other students and shot off a patronus to Alastor and Sirius at the Auror Dept. He then turned his attention to the wards of the castle. If anything else, he could work on them to figure out where the hole was and how danger had made its way through, whatever the danger may be.
He quickly tried to assess some of the wards of the castle, but realized they were definitely out of his league. Among the complicated jumble, he was able to ensure that certain wards of exclusion were still in place, but he was sure they were far from enough. As it stood, a Death Eater not on the ‘list’ could have made it through, and then used the Dark Mark on his arm, which had a modified Protean Charm attached, to allow for others to come through, even if the others he summoned were on the original ‘list’ to be excluded. He was going to be talking to Dumbledore about this as soon as this was all over.
He was furious that he was stuck in this room at this moment. All he could do was listen to the torment going on outside and do nothing. He realized quickly that this was exactly how everyone had felt when he, Sirius, Gideon, and Fabian had been locked in Diagon Alley, but he couldn’t dwell on that. Lauren was at the match. He only hoped that Dumbledore being on the grounds and his own warning to the Aurors had been enough.
James sat grumpily on his new hospital bed in the far back corner of the Hogwarts hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey had moved him there after bringing in the host of injured students. He was still being held hostage regardless though, which he found to be insulting. So he still had a hard time walking around because of his ribs. Big deal. He would get over it. He could take a few pain potions and be done with it. It would be gone in a few days, and the pain wasn’t so bad that he couldn’t walk around or do normal things. After being beaten repeatedly in Voldemort’s ‘care,’ he doubted he would ever consider such minor discomfort to be ‘pain’ again.
He glanced around the room, trying to distract himself from being so moody. He couldn’t help feeling saddened by the large number of students that had come through the hospital wing after the attack. Most came by and were treated for their minor injuries before they were sent off, but there were twenty or so students who had had to remain here for the night and a handful of them for even longer. He had helped care for most of the minor injuries alongside Madam Pomfrey, who had been overwhelmed by such a thing occurring at Hogwarts to begin with. He wasn’t exactly a Healer or anything, but after being a resident in the hospital wing for most of his Hogwarts career and after some of his Auror and Order training, he knew how to take care of most general injuries. It had freed up her time to tend to the injuries he couldn’t tend to, namely the students still residing in the hospital wing. He had just finished up with the last student not an hour ago while Madam Pomfrey continued to work on some of the other students, some of which were not even conscious.
He had been furious and worried about Lauren when he had suddenly felt a calmness rush over him, indicating that Dumbledore had finally managed to repel the danger and adjust the wards to do the same. The castle had been safe, and he had known it somehow. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to share such information with anyone but Lily, but it had made him feel better about the situation, particularly when Dumbledore finally reached the hospital wing. He had come in first, with a bunch of the most injured students, but when he had made eye contact with his furious face, he had actually chuckled— chuckled! That had about thrown him over the edge, but then Lauren had come through the door looking distinctly rumpled and more than a little jumpy. His anger had turned to concern instantly. It wasn’t fair. Dumbledore had known James would be furious with having been stuck in the infirmary so he had made sure to bring Lauren so James’ temper would be curved. Smart man.
It had been Death Eaters, just as James had imagined after he had evaluated the poor wards of exclusion, but the most of the problems and terror hadn’t come from the few Death Eaters that had shown up. No, the terror had come from the extraordinarily large number of vampires that had somehow made their way onto the Hogwarts grounds. Vampires! The only creatures thought to be completely separate entities from magical folk because they lived on their own and chose to feed solely off of muggles had actually opted to side with Voldemort. It was a huge backlash to the Ministry, who had tried to at least honor their separation from being under magical law. Now, the silent agreement to keep out of their business if they left magical folk alone had been blown up in smoke. Vampires should have been excluded from Hogwarts grounds already, but somehow that ward had been tampered with. Dumbledore had quickly rectified the change once their presence had been discovered, causing the vampires to cover their ears in agony before they had retreated, but not before they had almost killed about seven students. The Death Eaters had made sure to wreak havoc while the vampires attempted to feed, causing most of the explosions and spell fire. This had been what had caused all of the students’ injuries, mainly deep burns and cuts. However, after the vampires were forced to retreat, so did they, but not before they had cast a Dark Mark in the sky to make their presence known.
The message had been clear: Voldemort had wanted to make a statement. Voldemort had breached Hogwarts, a place thought to be impenetrable. The magical community was going to be in an uproar, even if no one had been seriously hurt, indicating that Voldemort had succeeded in his endeavor with flying colors. If the community at large was frightened into doing nothing against him, he had all the control. Who would show resistance if they were too afraid of what his retaliation may be? The Ministry was going to tread carefully by not taking action that could appear too forceful, meaning they would likely do nothing to counter Voldemort in the way they should. That left the Order, which was merely a collection of individuals who could only do so much. It was an enormous crux to bear.
He turned his attention out the window again, glaring at the quidditch pitch where Dumbledore and most of the faculty were currently trying to rectify the damage caused by the attack. There had been one other issue that had pissed him off that had stemmed from the attack. It was why Lauren had seemed so jumpy and distracted when she had arrived in the hospital wing. Dumbledore had told him after she had been treated for her minor burns and had been told to go rest in the dormitory that although she had been more than helpful in bringing students out of harm’s way, he was deeply concerned about the actions of one of the vampires who had been watching her more than closely. Apparently, Dumbledore had been given the impression that Lauren had been ‘targeted.’
That word had made his heart still. It was something that was rarely done, but not altogether impossible. Vampires usually didn’t create another vampire unless the circumstances were perfect because it was supposedly a drawn out process for both the victim and the original vampire; it was also frowned upon because vampires were typically solo creatures by nature so the thought of creating an equal of sorts could lead to competition. After paying attention in DADA, he knew that the first trait that they looked for, however, was beauty, and he couldn’t deny that Lauren was indeed beautiful. The fact that there was a vampire out there who might be considering her for a ‘mate’ made his worry for Lauren increase dramatically. It was also a cause for alarm since vampires, thought to never interfere with magical folk, only dealt with muggles. This meant that if they were to create another vampire, the victim or new vampire would likely have started out as a muggle. The thought of a magical vampire was unheard of, unless you think back to the oldest and most powerful vampires living in solitude around the world. These were the only vampires another vampire would ever answer to.
James knew that Lauren would be much more careful and attentive now, since Dumbledore had made sure that she was aware of her admirer. This, at least, was something he was grateful for. Lauren needed a slight wake up call to the danger, but the reason for it was not something James was happy about.
His dismal thoughts were interrupted when he noticed a flash of red out of the corner of his eyes. His attention immediately turned towards the gorgeous redhead he had the luxury of calling his wife. With the attack and all of the commotion in the hospital wing, he hadn’t noticed how much time had gone by and that she would be arriving soon. His mood instantly brightened as he watched her walk gracefully down through the throng of hospital beds, her cloak swishing around her as she walked. She still seemed a bit jumpy at the noise of all of the students talking and laughing and anytime someone walked too close to her, but he knew that would only go away with time. He watched her finally glance up and meet his eyes, smiling and blushing slightly at catching him already staring at her. He quickly tried to make her blush even more by asking her when she was finally close enough to hear, “So just how many hearts did you break in the DOM looking like that, Lily love?”
He grinned cheekily and thoroughly enjoyed the red stain of her cheeks as she approached him with a mock glare. “Considering most of the men I’m around all day are either married or in their late thirties, I doubt that many.”
He chuckled. “They all probably still like to look.” He reached out and pulled her into his arms before kissing her gently. He whispered near her ear, “You look beautiful, as always.”
Lily smiled at her husband, incredibly relieved at seeing him back to his old self. Her arms rested casually around his neck as she remained standing in front of him while he sat on the hospital bed. “Thank you, James. I can’t believe what happened today.” He just nodded at her words, frowning, and she knew he was just as concerned over the situation as she was. She had known exactly how to make him feel better though and had already taken care of it— well, more like yelled at Dumbledore about it. “Despite that though, I do have some good news.”
He looked up at her intrigued. “Yes?”
Lily’s smile turned into a naughty smirk as she said teasingly, “Well, I’ve gotten you off of hospital arrest. The ward is gone, and we can go home…”
James’ eyebrows rose as he easily caught onto what she was really saying. A part of him had thought she would be a bit reserved about the two of them after what had happened, but it had actually been the opposite, even though they hadn’t been able to do much about that aspect with him in the hospital. He now knew that it was more of a comfort thing about finally being with the one you love in all possible ways. “Why, Mrs. Potter, are you flirting with me?”
She leaned in closer to him, rolling her eyes playfully. “And here, I thought I was saying it flat out.”
He chuckled, pulling her closer to him as he stood up. He leaned down and kissed her cheek. “Right. Let’s go home then.”
He let her pull him along carefully, happily noticing that as long as she was with him, nothing else seemed to bother her at all— the noise, the proximity of people, nothing. He smiled, feeling honored that she felt safe with him. He was going to make sure she never felt unsafe again. He would do whatever it took to ease her mind and to see her smile. That was what he was there for.
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