There is a prophecy. I am not supposed to know about it for fear that I will make irrational choices. You see, it’s a prophecy about my son. Well, it is assumed to be about my son and therein lies the irony. The prophecy could very well refer to another child and yet I am locked away in my house like a helpless animal that needs protecting. James is protecting me and Harry in the only way he knows how. I understand that but I have to wonder what good is safety without freedom? What kind of life will Harry live if his entire world is clouded by fear of the unknown?
Lily Evans Potter glanced over the words she'd written. She scanned them guiltily – knowing how selfish she must sound. With a twitch of her wand the page burst into flames and disintegrated. She sat in the rocking chair seemingly mesmerized by the pile of ashes the letter had left behind. She rocked rhythmically, the quietest squeak emanating from the chair legs as she moved.
Her eyes turned to the windowpane where a late October cold spell had caused a dreary fog to obscure the view. Just as she was considering opening the window for some fresh air, she heard a low howl signal the wind was picking up outdoors.
“It figures,” she murmured gloomily.
Lily jumped and whirled in the chair to see who had so casually interrupted her. “I should have known it was you, Sirius. You never have been able to allow a girl her privacy.”
Sirius leaned against the doorframe, burying his hands deep in his pockets. “Not when you’re trying so hard to depress yourself.”
“I am not depressed.”
“Melancholy then?” Sirius stepped into the room and began wandering around. “Rather unnatural in here when Harry’s away. Where is my godson anyway?” Sirius fingered the silver stars floating above Harry’s crib, causing them to glitter brilliantly in the growing darkness.
“James took him somewhere to give me some time alone.”
“Just what you need I imagine.”
Sirius sent her a penetrating gaze. “More time alone.”
Lily shivered in the darkness. It was as if Sirius had read her mind, but she knew that was impossible. Lily shook it off. It was probably only the experience of his own wretched home-life that gave him such insight.
“Am I stuck with you tonight, then?” she asked finally.
“Until I can steal Harry and take him to a bar in Hogsmeade.” Sirius nodded. “He does wonders for my image with the ladies.”
“I don’t see James agreeing to that.”
“Who said I intend to ask?” Sirius grinned.
“You are never going to grow up, are you?”
“Not if I have a choice.”
“Well, if I’m stuck with you then let’s go downstairs and fix some tea. If I can remember how to entertain company that is.”
The words were out of her mouth before she realized it and Lily fought for composure. Everyone, including Sirius, was risking so much for her and Harry’s safety. Why on earth did she feel so bitter? Lily watched Sirius patiently; arming herself for the smart remark she knew was coming. But Sirius was watching her placidly, his face as unreadable as ever.
“So, how about that tea?” He asked simply and led her down to the kitchen.
Afraid she might say something else inappropriate; Lily fixed the tea in silence. She sank down opposite him at the table and watched as he pulled a flask from his jacket and poured an amber colored liquid into his cup. Lily blocked his hand as he moved to pour some in hers.
“You are much too young to be so responsible, Lily. Besides,” Sirius’ voices softened, “you sound like you could use it.”
Lily hesitated only for a moment then moved her hand away so Sirius could pour some in her cup.
“About earlier,” Lily began but Sirius waved her off.
“It’s me, Lily. I think we’ve known each other long enough that explanations are not necessary. Anyway,” Sirius leaned back in his chair and grinned, “I never have put much stock in the things you say.”
“How wonderfully reassuring.”
“And she smiles.”
Lily tried to wipe the grin off her face but the laughter in Sirius’ eyes was too infectious. Her smile turned into a soft laugh that warmed her from the inside out.
“How do you do it, Sirius? How do you keep us all laughing?”
“It’s a gift.”
“I have my dark moments, Lily. I just prefer not to waste my time amongst friends with the darkness that lies ahead.” Sirius shrugged. “And I refuse to take responsibility as seriously as James does. After all, what happens happens. The future can’t be changed.”
“No,” Lily answered after a long pause. “I suppose it can’t.”
In the safety of Sirius’ presence, Lily allowed her mind to drift to the misery she had been witness to. There was Voldemort’s rise to power. The deaths…the oh, so many tragic deaths. The destructive acts wizards were committing not only to others but to themselves. It was a world where darkness had replaced sunshine and love was traded for power. It was something that she refused to envision in James’ company. Lily hated to admit it, but she knew her thoughts were those of a scared little girl who was seeing her life-long dream of happiness be unceremoniously snatched away.
It was her burden and she refused to place it on James. Didn’t he have enough on his shoulders already? With sudden comprehension, she turned her gaze on Sirius and her eyes narrowed.
“James asked you to come check on me while he was out.”
“Is that a question?”
“Not hardly.” Lily’s eyes flashed. “Was he afraid I’d run away and have some fun?”
“He just wants you to be happy, Lily, and safe. You and Harry both.”
“And here I though your visit a mere social call. Coming to see your godson.” Lily huffed.
“Never doubt my loyalty to Harry,” Sirius growled and Lily immediately felt guilty.
“I didn’t mean it that way, Sirius. I know you love Harry as if he was your own. You’d do anything to protect him.” Lily whispered. “I just want…” her voice fell quiet.
“What, Lily? What is it you want?”
Lily hesitated for only a moment. “I want to walk under the stars. I want James to be here with me instead of out fighting some battle and leaving me to wonder if he will ever return. I want Harry to lead a normal life, without having to worry that he or his friends might lose their lives for the mere sake of their blood heritage. I want to breathe fresh air and feel raindrops on my skin no matter how cold they might be.” Lily sighed. “I want to go back before all this ever happened.”
“All of it?”
“No. You know what I mean. Before Voldemort turned our world into where hiding is the only way to survive.”
“You’re not hiding.”
“I’m not exactly living life to its fullest either.”
Lily watched as Sirius sat silently sipping his tea. Mulling over what a terrible bitter person she had become, Lily imagined. Why had she allowed herself to expose her deepest emotions to Sirius, her husband’s best friend? Knowing Sirius, he would run to James, tell him about their conversation, and Lily would never see daylight again because James would think she’d try and face Voldemort herself.
“Don’t get me wrong, Sirius. I love James and understand what he’s trying to do here. The last thing I want is anything to happen to Harry or me. But, at the same time, I don’t want anything to happen to James either. Why is it alright for him to be out trying to save the world and I can’t even walk down the street? We’re all in danger but no one else has been caged in like me.”
“Caged?” Sirius’ eyes lifted to meet hers. “You have friends, the love of a wonderful man, and the most astounding baby I’ve ever seen. If you think that’s a cage you should have tried living at Grimmauld Place.”
Even though his voice was calm, Lily could sense Sirius’ fury. She moved to his side and placed her hand on his arm. “Sirius, I can only imagine what you’ve lived through and I don’t mean to make light of it at all. But you, if anyone, should understand where I’m coming from.”
“I never said I didn’t.” Sirius said softly.
“Miss me?” James’ strong voice broke in between the two as he appeared in the doorway. His light hearted tone immediately darkened when he saw the two. “Has something happened? Sirius, Lily, what’s wrong?”
“We’re fine, James. Welcome home. Where’s Harry?” Lily wrapped him in a warm hug to reassure him and kissed him softly. “No bad guys around here tonight.”
“Except me.” Sirius grinned.
“Harry’s up in his room asleep. So, what’s going on?” James sank down at the table, pouring himself a cup of tea.
Lily glanced to Sirius, expecting him to draw James into their conversation. Oddly, though, he had a mischievous smile across his face.
“Trying to make a date with your wife.”
“Pardon?” James glanced from one to the other in amusement.
“I had planned to take Harry out this evening but is seems you beat me to it. So, I thought me and Lily would hit the town.”
“Sirius, now isn’t the time.”
“And exactly when is the time, James?” Sirius shrugged. “You’ve forgotten how to be adventurous in your fatherhood. Lily and I will promise to stay out of trouble. Unless, of course, you don’t trust me to keep her safe.”
Lily held her breath. Sirius didn’t think she was crazy. He didn’t think she was over-reacting or self-pitying. He was trying to help her find a bit of freedom, if only for a night. And, of course, only Sirius would know the exact thing to say to deny James any chance to object.
“Of course I trust you Sirius. With my life, you know that.” James said quietly.
“You and Lily could go out and I could watch little Harry but it seems neither of you want to leave him without parental supervision.” Sirius quipped. “Poor boy’s never gonna catch a break, is he? Always going to have someone watching over his shoulder.” Sirius finished off his tea. “All settled then,” he said when James didn’t respond, “I’m going to say goodnight to Harry and then steal your wife.”
James nodded and watched as the Sirius disappeared, then turned to Lily. “Is that how you feel, Lily?” He asked softly. “Like you always have someone watching over your shoulder?”
Lily smiled. “You and Sirius know each other way too well. You two can manage to have a conversation with each other and someone in the same room will never know you talked about anything.”
“Is it?” James pulled her into his arms. “I love you, Lily. I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want you to feel suffocated either. It’s a fine line that, apparently, I’m not walking too well.”
“It’s alright.” Lily kissed him lovingly, her arms wrapping tighter in his safe embrace. “I understand.”
“I watched Sirius being strangled by the world his parents created for him. I never intended to do the same thing.” James shook his head, his words coming in broken spurts. “I never realized how easy it would be to slip into over-protecting you and Harry. I’m sorry for that.” James took a deep steadying breath. “You two have a wonderful time and I’ll see you in a few hours.”
Lily kissed him tenderly, her thanks poured into the soft connection of their kiss as only lovers could do.
“All set?” Sirius handed Lily her cloak as he re-entered the room. “Death Eater central, here we come.”
“You always know how to reassure a man, Sirius.” James attempt to veil his concern was obvious to all and Sirius clasped his shoulder roughly.
“We’ll be fine, James.” Sirius gave him a gentle smile. “I haven’t let you down yet and I certainly won’t tonight.”
James nodded and Lily could feel his eyes watching them as they left the house and closed the door behind them.
“Thank you.” Lily whispered as they walked down the street, the wind beginning to stir around them once again. She stopped mid-stride to breathe in the air she had so desperately wanted to have and let her hair fall loose to let the wind blow through it. It was if she had received a gift she never thought would be possible until Voldemort had been vanquished. She let herself relish the moment, praying the rain would hold off long enough for her to savor her stolen moments of freedom. “So, where are we really going?”
“I’m just along for the ride.” Sirius dug his hands deeper in his pockets, his eyes sweeping over their surroundings for hidden dangers with practiced ease. “Where would you like me to take you, Mrs. Potter?”
The smell of late fall wild roses hung in the wind as she inhaled deeply, trying to lock the magnificent scent in her mind. The clouds prevented her from seeing the flowers, but her mind could imagine the blooms, hanging droopily in the chilly air, their branches swaying with each wind current, its petals kissed lightly by the night’s earlier rain. “Can we just walk for awhile?” Lily answered finally, her mind still reeling in the feel of the world around her.
“Godric’s Hollow is rather quiet tonight.” Lily murmured, slipping her arm through Sirius’ as he slowed his pace to match hers.
“Eerily so.” Sirius answered, loosening the clenched fist in his pocket so Lily wouldn’t notice the tension in his arm as she held it.
“Don’t be dramatic.” Lily grinned. “It doesn’t suit you and you’re ruining the evening.”
“You seem miles away, Sirius. What is it?” Lily squeezed his arm. “If you think we’re in danger, you can take me back.”
“No, nothing as exciting as that, I’m afraid.” Sirius laughed softly to reassure her. “I was just remembering the day I ran off from Grimmauld and ended up on James’ doorstep. You have the same look on your face right now that I imagine I did back then.”
“No.” Sirius grew solemn. “Escaping only to know you have to return sooner or later and face the truth.”
Lily looked away, unwilling to let Sirius see how his honesty had affected her. How did he always know and why did he always have to call her on it?
“And what is the truth of the situation, Sirius?” Lily asked glibly.
“That each one of us has to be prepared to give our life or we’ll never succeed at defeating him.”
“I’m prepared for that.”
“Are you?” Sirius challenged.
“What does that mean?” Lily pulled away from and faced him squarely. “You think I’m a coward, do you?”
“You? Never.” Sirius laughed, which infuriated her even more. Before she could begin her tirade, though, Sirius had pulled her arm back into his and held it tightly as they walked. “Being killed is easy…you don’t really have to do much to accomplish that. I’m only trying to say that facing death takes a lot more work.”
Lily let his words sink in as she tried to contemplate their meaning. They tugged at something deep inside her but, no matter how she tried, Lily could not decipher it. Her anger had subsided though and she walked beside him, suddenly realizing that Sirius was now walking with purpose and direction. She let him lead her without question, knowing that Sirius, like all the Marauders, would keep her safe.
As they walked, the darkness grew more ominous and the wind began to howl. The scent of flowers she had clung to had long since faded and was now replaced with the stench of burned wood and rotting food. Whether it was simply her imagination, Lily couldn’t tell.
Drifts of gray ash brushed against their cloaks and Lily’s pace slowed. “Sirius, where are we?” her voice was a whisper, as if speaking any louder was disturb some unforeseen enemy that might be lurking nearby.
“No need to be frightened.” Sirius assured her. “Voldemort has already been here and gone. This is the world he and his followers left behind.” Sirius grimaced. “What little they left, I should say.”
Sirius stepped through the rubble of burned houses carefully, unwilling to disturb whatever remnants happened to be left. He steered her away from the smoldering wood of what had once appeared to be a child’s playpen. Light ash clung to his cloak as he bent to move a wooden plank out of their path.
“Sirius,” Lily’s voice broke as she objected to the course on which he was taking her but Sirius was not to be dissuaded.
“Come, Lily.” Sirius took her hand tightly in his and led her further into the ruins. They passed simple things that had once showed life existed here… tea cups, broken china, children’s toys, and scorched portraits that had once held memories of happy times but now lay forgotten in the midst of tragedy. Lily’s strength faltered as she continued to walk and was glad when Sirius stopped and sank down on the ground. Ignoring the dampness, Lily dropped down beside him, the weight of the things she’d seen weighing heavily on her soul.
“It took Voldemort mere hours to do this.” Sirius explained. “Several nights ago. It seems he was in search of a child.”
“Harry.” Lily’s voice caught. “He did all of this?” Lily glanced around. “Where is everyone? Were they all killed? The parents? The children?”
“All but one.” Sirius nodded as a dark figure approached the nearby ruins of what once had been a magnificent home. “She comes here every night.”
“How do you know?” Lily glanced to Sirius who, for the briefest moment, allowed his emotions to be exposed and Lily understood. The heart wrenching look in his eyes told her more than words ever could.
“Oh, Sirius.” Lily moved to sit closer to him. “Why do you do this? Come here?”
“It’s my job. The Order wants to make sure she’s safe. This is where she comes.” He answered simply.
“But why does she come back?”
“She sings her child a lullaby.” Sirius nodded to where the woman stood in the darkness, her soft humming filtering across the rubble. “He was killed by Voldemort, of course.”
“Why you? Why must it be you who has to go through this? Every night?” Lily’s voice was soft, not wanting to talk over the heart breaking sobs coming from the mother as she finished the lullaby to the child she had lost forever.
“This isn’t my assignment. It’s James.”
“We showed up immediately after the battle to see what we could do. She’s a member of the Order and James was assigned to watch over her considering her current state of mind. It just all hit a little too close for home for James. I offered to handle it for him so I’ve been here every night.”
“But what about you?”
“I couldn’t rightly let James go through this every night, now could I?” Sirius shrugged her off. “And then have him go home to a wife and son that he tries to protect with each breath he takes? No, Lily. That’s not really something I would do to James.”
“Have you talked to her?” Lily asked as she watched the mother fade into the shadows, her sobs still echoing through the night.
“Would you want someone to bother you if you were in her shoes?”
“No. I suppose not.” Lily murmured and stood up to go to where the woman had been singing. Sirius let her go alone and she wondered briefly if it was for her peace of mind or because he didn’t want to get any closer.
Somehow, when she got the spot, she had expected something more monumental than what she found. The remains of what she assumed to be a crib with a scorched and tattered teddy bear where the only items to prove a child’s room had ever existed. Lily kneeled to touch the teddy bear; the dampness and coldness of the bear making her jerk her hand back. Silly, Lily though silently. Of course it would be cold and wet, it’s been sitting out in the rain for days. She reached her hand out again, her mind remembering the warmth of little Harry’s body with each touch they had shared. His soft green eyes, so like her own, and how they would look at her in wonder and glee when she picked him up into her arms. Was it possible there would be a time for her like this? A time when she could no longer comfort Harry’s sadness, enjoy his giggling laughter or ease his fears of the unknown that each day brought to an infant?
Lily’s heart wrenched. Of course, it could happen. The only thing that made her different from this family was the safety James and the other Marauders offered her. They were her sanctuary from Voldemort’s terror. But she knew she couldn’t always count on that. What if Voldemort found their hideout and came into their home? What if the Marauders weren’t there to protect them? Her death she was prepared for but Harry? His life had just started. What if Sirius was right and she wasn’t ready to face whatever this mother had faced?
Lily’s eyes lifted to look at Sirius. He had befriended her long before the other Marauders. He had a way of accepting almost everyone with an ease she had long admired. Even when she and James were arguing children, Sirius wouldn’t let her walk away. She knew Sirius life had prepared him for death. He had never feared it and, as a teenager, she often had wondered if he welcomed it. He was the serene Marauder. He refused to be ruffled by even the biggest controversy, preferring instead to take them as they came. He would argue for his beliefs and fight those who opposed them but yet, he was the most loyal of them all. He was willing to go through any torture to protect them all and for that, Lily felt blessed to call him her friend. His willingness to sacrifice his own emotional sanctity so that James didn’t have to face this particular scene each night made Lily’s heart break. What else had he so willing endured to the sake of all of them?
And James. Her loving amazing James. What did he bear witness to each day before coming home to her and Harry that he didn’t share? Why had he fought so hard to control his emotions so she didn’t understand what he survived each day? Maybe if she’d known, if he’d told her, she wouldn’t have been so eager to go out into the world.
But Lily knew better. Even as her tears started to fall, she knew she would have reacted the same way. Only this, seeing the love this mother had for her child in even death, could have made her face the reality of the world in which they were now living. She knew her sobs were loud enough for Sirius to hear and, as she fought to quiet them, she looked his way. His head was dropped between his knees and, even in the distance, Lily could see the shaking he was trying to subdue.
Overcome, Lily rushed to his sit before him. Sirius acknowledged her presence but remained silent. His face was once again unreadable, not allowing any sign of his hurt, or fear or whatever emotion his must be feeling to be revealed. His unwillingness to connect with her made Lily’s tears fall in torrents.
Reaching down, Sirius wiped away her tears then pulled her to lean into his chest. “I hope you understand why I brought you here. I wasn’t trying to be cruel. There are some things you just have to learn for yourself, Lily.”
Lily nodded. Sirius wasn’t being cruel, she knew that. He’d done the only thing he knew how to do… show her the truth.
“We should be getting back.”
Lily nodded and let Sirius support her as they began the walk back. She knew how to face Voldemort now. She knew what was necessary to face death and overcome it. Somehow, she would teach James and Harry the same thing. Lily’s pace quickened. She just hoped there was still time.
Hush my love now don't you cry, everything will be all right
Close your eyes and drift in dream, rest in peaceful sleep
If there's one thing I hope I showed you, just give love to all
In my arms tight, every day you give me life
As I drift off to your world, we’ll rest in peaceful sleep
I know there's one thing that you showed me
Just give love to all
-Lullaby by Creed
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