Lily avoided you for the remainder of the evening. With the exception of a few moments spent changing your dressing she didn’t set foot in the living room until nearly eleven and even then, only to retrieve a book from the shelf.

“She’s in an odd mood,” James commented as she rushed back into the kitchen without looking at either of you.

You stiffened. Your leg throbbed. “She’s busy at work, I’d guess,” you offered, trying to sound nonchalant. James shrugged, holding up the bag of potato chips. You waived them off.

“Tired?” he asked, sitting up straighter.

“I…” you started to make excuses but he shook his head.

“I got it. I’m out.”

When you woke up it was to the crackle of bacon sizzling in a pan. Lurching forward, you let your feet fall to the floor, enjoying the warmth of the hearth under your toes. You pushed yourself up, and made your way into the kitchen. Lily, still plodding around in her pajamas, gestured for you to sit down. “Scrambled or poached?” she asked, cracking an egg into a bowl, a smile in her voice.

“Scrambled,” you answered, wrenching the morning’s Prophet from underneath the knobby cane she’d laid so obviously across the table and nearly knocking over your orange juice.

“You need the cane,” she argued without looking at you, whisking the egg instead.

“I don’t need a cane, Lily. I’m not a ninety year old man.”

She didn’t say anything for a few minutes, sliding the egg onto the plate handing it over with a stack of bacon. “Are you trying to give me a heart attack?” you asked, your eyebrows raised.

She rolled her eyes before sitting down across from you and holding her hand out. “Classifieds?” she asked, wiggling her fingers.

“Looking for a clandestine place for us to wander in and out of undetected, because I can work on that,” you teased, thumbing the pages before handing over the section.

“Funny.” She snatched it from between your fingers and ripped it open, nearly tearing the page in half.

“Fiesty,” you teased, both of you laughing now. Lily’s died out first and the vacancy it left was rapidly filled by the sound of a key turning in the lock. You both froze.

James opened the door and hung his coat on the hook. “Mmm, breakfast,” he said, leaning over to kiss Lily on the top of the head before sliding into the seat next to her and stealing your toast. “I’ve got twenty, how are you doing?” he asked, nodding in your direction.

You considered him for a moment and then you considered Lily, her face tight – terrified.

“A lot better, actually,” you answered, extracting the cane from between the juice glasses. “Enough to go home, even.”

Lily was on her feet in an instant. “Sirius, you have to stay here.” James looked back and forth between the two of you - a piece of toast held suspended in the air, halfway between his plate and his mouth.

You bristled immediately, the hair on the back of your neck standing up, annoyed. “Lily, I said I would stay the night. I’ve stayed and now I’m going.”

She opened her mouth to argue but James gripped her wrist. “Lily, let him go,” he said softly, his voice persuasive. Impetuously, you raised your eyebrows. She knew what you intended – the inherent challenge in the tiny movement - and her shoulders dropped.

“Sorry about that.” Your ride home on the Knight Bus had been anything but peaceful as you’d tried to brace yourself in your seat without the use of your left leg. It didn’t help that the old woman a few rows in front kept turning around to glare at you. By the time you made it home the sun hung high in the sky, beating down on the frozen ground, just enough to melt the snow into a slushy mess on the sidewalk. Everyone else showed up a half-hour later.

James shrugged his shoulders and stabbed a log with the fire poker. “It’s okay. She’ll be fine. You know Lily.”

“Speaking of paranoia,” Peter extended hesitantly, “I don’t suppose you’d be interested in letting us take the new bike for a ride while you’re out of commission, would you?”

Taking them into the garage to show off the bike seemed a much better idea than sitting around talking – it was difficult to say something incriminating where machinery was involved, so the four of you made your way into the garage. Even Lupin emitted a low whistle when he set eyes on it, running a hand along the fender. “I know, right?” you commented, grabbing your riding jacket off of the seat and holding it out for him. “Care to go first?”

“Are you sure?” he asked, an eager glint in his eyes.

“Sure, the roads are dry enough.”

The three of them took turns whizzing around the neighborhood until the street lamps flicked on. James rolled the bike back into its space in the garage at a snails pace, careful not to scratch against anything. Handing over the helmet, he grinned widely. “That was excellent. What a way to live.”

Lupin chuckled, looking at his watch.


“Nothing,” Lupin teased, smiling. “We should go if we’re going to make it back in time for dinner.”

“Dinner?” you asked, confused.

“Dinner.” James spun on you, his expression intense. You continued to look perplexed. “Dinner,” he said again. “At seven. Don’t do this to me, Sirius – she’s been planning this for a week. Don’t make me tell her you’re not coming.”

“James, it’s six fifteen. How do you expect me to make it to Godric’s Hollow in forty-five minutes?” you asked, incredulous.

James looked baffled. “Uh, the same way we make it everywhere…” You gestured toward your leg. “Right, no apparating,” he said, realization dawning on him.

“Take the Knight Bus,” Peter suggested helpfully. You rolled your eyes.

“Just get the hell out of here.”

The roar of your bike in the drive must have announced your arrival, because Lily had the front door open before you made it up the walk. James made you swear not to be late for dinner, so after putting out the fire in the hearth and changing, you’d set out again.

“Hi,” she said awkwardly as you climbed the front steps.

You issued a hello in response, throwing your coat over the arm of the sofa. The living room was back in order and the fire crackled pleasantly, its warm smoke mingling with the scent of carrots and onions in the air.

“So that’s the bike?” she asked from the kitchen. She was fussing over a pot on the stove, stirring its contents slowly. Her movements were methodical – expelling no greater force than was absolutely necessary for the given task, as if she were focusing intently on everything she did.

You answered her but she didn’t seem to notice, so you tried again, taking a few steps toward the back door. “Are the guys outside?”

Lily shook her head. “You’re the first one here. They’re late. With Dumbledore, I think,” she explained, not meeting your eyes.

“Oh,” you said by way of response, pulling out a chair and taking a seat. Silence fell for a few excruciatingly long moments as you counted the individual stitches on your shirt cuff. When that ran out, you moved to counting the number of poppy’s in the table cloth. You made it all the way to 127 before she heaved a sigh and pulled out the chair across from you.

“You’re right,” she said simply, picking at her nail polish.

You looked up at her, studying what of her expression you could see but it was empty. “And I’m handsome as well, but could we be more specific?” She pursed her lips, struggling with the smile that was threatening to reveal itself.

“About everything…about James. It’s not getting any easier.” The subject matter crushed the smile, leaving sadness in its wake. “I have to tell him.”

The two of you stared at each other for a long moment – neither of you sure what to say or do next.

Lily opened her mouth to say something but a loud crack in the other room silenced you both.

“This is becoming a pattern,” you hissed under your breath.

Her jaw snapped shut as she composed her expression, turning back towards the stove. The silence that fell was weighty – so heavy that you were sure they would feel it when they ventured out of the living room.

James elbowed you playfully in the ribs as he passed, apparently oblivious. You averted your gaze as he snaked a hand around Lily’s waist, kissing her on the cheek. “James,” she scolded. You looked up, watching her pull away from him with a six sense of satisfaction. “You tracked slush in everywhere.”

Your aversion persisted through dinner and you found yourself staring at the door, unwilling to look at James or Lily and avoiding Lupin’s probative gaze. The five of you spent the better part of an hour staring at your plate and making awkward conversation before Lily shooed you into the living room. James flopped onto the sofa after flicking the wireless on and tuning in to the Quidditch match.

You listened for a while, the announcer describing the action as realistically as possible but still missing the real subtlety of the game, so you turned your attention to Lily, listening as she moved through the kitchen. You picked through the sounds – water squishing through the sponge as she wiped it across the counter or the scrape of ceramic against wood as she slid the plates across the floor of the cupboard – trying to hear her emotions in her movements since neither of you could offer words but they revealed little.

The radio switched to commercial, the announcer reading off advertisements for fire whiskey, Quiddich helmets and abrasive cleaning potions. Called forward from your musings, you glanced at the clock in the entryway and straightened up, getting out of your seat. James looked in your direction, eyeing you over the rims of his glasses. “Heading home?” he asked. You nodded retrieving your jacket from the heap on the floor.

“Night,” Lupin offered absently, his attention focused on the stack of books Lily had set aside for you. For whatever reason, the fact that the stack still existed surprised you – the last forty-eight hours existing in some kind of surreal time warp. Lupin picked up the book off the top of the stack and, as the spine cracked, you caught a glint of red foil among the pages.

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