Hagrid's standing there, trying to talk to her, but she can't let Hagrid get near her. There's just no one she can trust anymore. Not Hagrid, not Peter, not even James, whom she loves so damn much even as she hates him for what he did to her. She thinks that she could be immortal and even at the end of her days, she would still both love and hate her dead husband.
But then Sirius shows up, and she realizes that she's wrong, she can trust him because she didn't trust him before. James insisted that Sirius would never betray them, but Lily wanted Peter to be their secret-keeper. It's all Lily's fault that James is dead, if you look at it from that angle, so she may as well let Sirius close. If he kills her, well, that'll serve her right, won't it?
But he doesn't kill her. He's white as a ghost and trembling so hard that she thinks he's going to fall apart any second. "James is dead," she whispers as he approaches. Her eyes are wide and she keeps forgetting to blink, letting her eyes become dry and painful before she closes her eyelids a few times, hard, then forgets to blink again. "Voldemort is dead."
Rage takes over Sirius's features. "Peter," he snarls, but he doesn't leave. He moves closer to Lily instead, and tiny Harry's yawn can apparently calm even the anger of the heir of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black, if only just a little.
She hands him Harry to keep him calmer, keep him here, and wonders how anyone could expect her to handle this on her own, how James could have possibly thought she can be capable of raising their beautiful baby boy without them.
Her knees give out, and when they hit a wooden board that used to be a part of her house, she falls over and her head hits something else.
When she wakes up, she finds herself in one of the hospital wing's isolation rooms, and she only knows that from her brief period training under Madame Pomfrey in seventh year. She has a mild headache and there's a Pepper-Up potion and her wand on the small nightstand next to the bed, but she ignores the potion in favor of grasping her wand tightly. The pain reminds her that she's alive, that she exists.
She's still wearing the same clothes that she had on when Voldemort attacked, so she can't have been asleep for too long, or Madame Pomfrey would have redressed her in something more sterile.
The door isn't locked, surprisingly, although if they'd wanted her to stay locked in, they wouldn't have left her a wand. In the main wing, a man with dark and long, messy hair is leaning over a cradle. He hears the pat-patter of her bare feet walking across the floor and looks behind him with reflexes he shouldn't need.
Lily looks at him for a moment, then puts her hands on either side of a small tear in the bottom hem of her shirt and rips a strip off. She hands it to Severus silently as she walks by, and he ties his hair back as she smiles down at Harry. What had before been a small, dirty, bleeding cut is now a smooth, bland scar.
"You're not afraid I'm here to kill him?" Severus asks.
Lily lifts Harry out of his crib, holding him gently and nearly sobbing from the ache in her heart that says her little boy nearly died, and her husband already is. She tilts her head to the side when her tears fall on Harry's face, making him twitch in his sleep. "I'd hoped you were our spy," she says, her voice catching in the middle of the word 'our'.
"I'm not supposed to be here," Severus says, almost guiltily. "Albus needs me to stay in hiding until the fervor dies down somewhat, and I've a few owls to send before I disappear."
"Don't forget Emmeline," Lily reminds him, her tears dripping steadily now, and it is to his credit that he does not try to console her or offer his sympathies, only nods and leaves.
Harry gets cranky very soon after that, so she takes him to the back room and floos the kitchen for some warm milk. The house elves are grateful for something to do, since it's summer and they have nowhere to be but a nearly-empty castle, and they ask her if she needs anything else. Not only does an elf appear in record time with the bottle, but it also brings a basket with an assortment of food. She thanks it, and it leaves cheerfully.
The crying has stopped by now, but her face feels disgusting from almost-dry tears. A murmured charm cleans her face and she begins to feed Harry bits of sweet potato and squash, his favorite foods. She and James have always been grateful that Harry is such a well-mannered baby, but Lily thinks she's never appreciated it quite as much as she does now.
"Lily?" a voice calls worriedly from the main wing, and Lily responds in a scratchy voice, "In here." Madame Pomfrey walks in a moment later, obviously relieved to see her. "Ah, I was worried!" she exclaims. "Now, you've obviously been under a great deal of stress, you need to-"
"Is anything wrong with Harry?" Lily interrupts.
"He's just fine dear, perfectly healthy, I'm sorry I didn't say that right away," Madame Pomfrey says in a soothing tone. "I've never seen or heard of anything quite like it, but... You-Know-Who is dead, and Harry is absolutely fine. I've run every test I could think of and had a top-notch Healer from St. Mungo's come to look over him as well. He's quite fine."
And that's pretty much the extent of it. Voldemort is dead, Harry is alive, and Lily thinks that no one really expected her to survive all this. James is carefully talked around by most, and she can only let out her grief with Remus and Sirius, when they're not out trying to hunt down Peter. Frank and Alice are insane, and Lily thinks that might be the single greatest case of gross injustice that she has ever heard. Their son Neville is going to be raised by Frank's mother. Death Eaters are being caught and held for trial left and right.
Lily hears all this through whispers, through rumours, through carefully borrowed copies of the Daily Prophet. She thinks that the aftermath of this war, ended by the death of her husband, will destroy her. They try to keep her sheltered, try to keep her locked up with only the occasionaly visitor allowed to see her. Her best friends are insane, turned traitor, or out hunting for that traitor. She hasn't seen Severus since that day in the hospital wing, (indeed, he has managed to disappear quite thoroughly for now, although he'll hopefully manage to show up for his trial,) and although Emmeline owls to say that Lily has all of her support and love, she's too busy with her work at the ministry to visit.
The first time that the Daily Prophet's headline isn't about Death Eaters, exactly, is when Arabella Zabini dies. No one knows who could have done it, but the Prophet theorizes that it was Death Eaters. Lily can't quite figure out why, since Zabini left for Italy sometime during Voldemort's rise to power and quite obviously wanted nothing to do with the Death Eaters, but it's not as if there are any other leads for the Prophet to get excited about.
In-between a lot of speculation on who killed her and why and a recap of her whole sordid past (which is mostly just a loop of 'she married someone, he died, so she married someone else') is the stated fact that her son Blaise has nowhere to go, seeing as how all her previous husbands are dead and, coincidentally, her family too.
Lily carefully clips out the article and sometimes watches the pictures when Harry is quiet and she is feeling sorry for herself - one of Zabini smiling so coldly and beautifully that one might think she is a frost queen instead of merely attending the reading of her latest husband's will, and another where she is in a bathing suit and holding her newborn son, glaring icily at the camera except when she smiles gently at her son, as if the world is all right so long as they're together.
She wonders who is going to take in the beautiful little child whose mother loved him more than anything else, and if that person will love him even half as much.
Lily's spoken to the ministry by now, told them everything she knows a thousand times apiece. They've finally stopped bothering her, and she's gotten a flat in Muggle London. It's near Sirius's, and although she rarely goes to his, he and Remus often spend time at hers. Sometimes they all fall asleep together while watching a really terrible movie on the telly; Lily leaning against Remus with her head on his bony shoulder, Sirius using Remus's lap as a pillow, and Harry held tightly in someone's arms.
He looks more like James every day, except for the eyes. Although none of them mention it, they all see that Harry's eyes have lightened - they used to be the same deep green as Lily's, and now they are closer to the sickly colour of Avada Kedavra. He is a living monument to James's death, but that idea makes Lily sick up, so she eventually trains herself not to think of him that way.
Severus visits a few times, carefully scheduled so that there is no way Sirius will show up by accident, and they speak awkwardly of what they are doing. The only thing Severus can manage any passion about is Lily's career, or rather, the fact that she doesn't have one. He asks her if she just wants to stay in her flat for the rest of her life, taking care of Harry, and she tells him that she doesn't think that would be so bad. He gets angry and storms out, but a small box containing her favorite pastry is on the kitchen counter the next morning by way of an apology.
Lily begins subscribing to The Quibbler in addition to the Prophet and Parenthood, hoping that it will keep her both amused and more well informed. A decent number of Death Eaters claim they were under Imperius and are released, although most are sent to Azkaban. Lucius Malfoy is the one who makes the most news. There are no photos of him with his son, although she does find one of Narcissa and Draco that she pins on the wall next to the Zabinis, next to the Bulstrodes and Longbottoms and Goyles. Frederick Davis is sent to Azkaban, and his wife Maria is killed before she can be given a verdict by the Wizangamot. Jeremy Lewis, her guard at the time, has no idea how it happened and looks quite smug in his photo.
They have a daughter, Tracey. No one wants to take in the child of two Death Eaters.
Being a parent is a full-time job, Lily's father had often said.
Emmeline has been promoted and Lily invites her over to celebrate and talk. She asks carefully about adoption laws and those poor Zabini and Davis children, and Emmeline is kind enough to answer all of Lily's questions without asking any of her own.
Lily thinks that in the future, the people who will be remembered will be the ones like Sirius, gorgeous heir to a pureblood family who turned his back on them and fought for the good of wizard kind. Severus, who spied on Voldemort and became an invaluable resource to the Order of the Phoenix. Lily, who is Harry's mother. No one will ever know about Remus, working patiently and tirelessly even when some of the people giving him orders sent him on what amounted to suicide missions because they didn't like werewolves. Emmeline, who loved Lily and Narcissa and Severus and Sirius and Regulus, and refused to choose a side because she hated the idea of hurting the people she adored.
Then again, few people will ever know how much Sirius cried over his brother's death or how he has no idea what to do with himself without James there to be beside him. Severus only left Voldemort because as much as he hates Muggles, he started to hate Voldemort even more.
Lily flips through her old history textbooks sometimes and wonders if she could have paid more attention in class if the people she had studied had seemed more like actual people.
Probably not. Binns is a terrible teacher.
Once Godric's Hollow is rebuilt, looking just as it did when Lily and James had moved in, when Sirius ran away from home and the Potters took him into their fold, they all move in - Lily, Remus, Sirius, Harry, Blaise, and Tracey. Sirius wants to get rid of his flat, but Remus insists that they should have a place to go to be alone, if any of them need it. Sirius argues until Remus suggests that each of them chip in for the rent, if that's the problem, and Sirius is so appalled by the idea of his friends giving him money for anything when he isn't desperately in need that he stops arguing right away.
The newspapers have fun talking about Lily's adoption, calling it a sign of mental illness, compensation for the death of her husband, an attempt to make sure the other two children grow up right or wrong or not at all. Lily laughs at the worst ones and clips out the pictures, pinning them to the kitchen wall. Her collection of photos of parents and children is in her room, on the wall that Lily's bed is set against so that she can watch them smile as she falls asleep.
Harry's hair cannot stay tame no matter what anyone does, and while Lily knows this is because he's a baby and his hair is too soft to do anything with, it reminds her of James and warms her heart.
Where Lily can see lines of herself and James come into form as Harry grows, Blaise and Tracey are new and different. Blaise is angles and dark skin and huge brown eyes, looking very much like a male version of his mother, to the extent that Remus jokes that if all evidence (seven husbands!) didn't point to the contrary, he'd think Arabella Zabini had refused to taint her genetics and simply given birth without the help of anyone else.
Tracey is soft and pale, and despite the amount of attention she is given, is fairly shy and rarely speaks. Her hair is lank and dull, but her eyes are bright and blue and always curious. She only says a few words at any given time, usually in childlike gibberish, and all three adults are quite worried about her until she's three years old and during a lull in a debate Sirius and Lily are having, she asks wearily, "Can you two be quiet, or do I need to go get Moony?"
They are a study of contrasts as they grow older. Harry loves flying like James never did - where James loved the conflict of Quidditch, Harry enjoys the air and open space. Sirius buys Harry a snitch and Blaise chases after it with him, gloating quietly when he manages to win and pouting when Harry gets the snitch first. Eventually, Blaise gives up on beating him and starts studying Quidditch, trying to get Harry to try out different moves until Harry gets annoyed and bugs his mother to make Blaise stop being annoying. Tracey sometimes sits outside to watch, but more often sits in the first-storey windowsill and reads, content to listen to her brothers whinge at each other.
Blaise is breaking the hearts of girls and boys even before puberty, and no matter how hard Lily or the others try, they can't make him understand that leading the other children on and then shattering their feelings isn't funny. He doesn't get it until the pretty little girl from down the street informs Harry that he isn't good enough for her. (Someone breaks into the little girl's home later that week and only rips up her clothing, oddly enough.) After that, he's a bit more considerate.
Lily loves her children more than anything else in the world. She knows that they love her as well, even when Harry bursts into tears when she accidentally calls him 'James', even when Blaise insists on putting a framed picture of Arabella next to his photographs of Lily and Sirius trying to play jump rope with a hula hoop, Harry balancing carefully as he stands on his broom in mid-air, and Remus and Tracey arguing over something or another (probably whether or not the Oxford comma should be used, something that neither of them would give up on). (Tracey has the opposite sort of problem; when Frederick Davis is in the newspaper for having finally been given the Dementor's Kiss and Sirius shows her the article, she rips it up and spends the rest of the day in a terrible temper. It is the first and only time she physically attacks her brothers, and Harry is too confused about the fact that she actually bit him to be upset about it.)
There's a day when everyone is out of the house - Harry is at the Burrow, Blaise is shopping with Sirius and Emmeline in Diagon Alley, and Tracey and Remus are at Hogwarts so that Remus can pick up his Wolfsbane Potion and Tracey can explore the school's library - and Lily doesn't quite know what to do with herself. It's happened before, that she was home alone, but she's always had chores or something else to do. And she realizes that if she's having trouble now, when Remus and Sirius and the children will be home in time for dinner, what is she going to do in less than a year when all three of the kids are away at Hogwarts?
Lily hunts down the good firewhiskey - one of the few things she'd been able to salvage, James's mother had given it to her after the wedding and told her she'd probably be needing it eventually - and pours herself a few fingers, downs it, then pour herself a bit more and drinks it more slowly, thinking carefully.
Everyone's a bit startled to hear that Lily intends to start working. They'd thought about one or two of them getting jobs towards the beginning, but since Sirius's mother died in 1985 and left him the entire Black fortune, they've just never needed to. Emmeline hears the news as well, since she's staying for dinner, and she promises to owl over the requirements for Lily to renew her Healer's license. (She also adds in a copy of last year's written test, even though the pamphlet clearly says copies of the written test are not to be released for public viewing until five years after they have been used. Lily later mentions that she didn't realize Emmeline's contacts were quite so good; Sirius rolls his eyes and says he didn't realize Emmeline could fancy someone for so many years.)
Lily is subtly sabotaged over the next few weeks. Random pages go missing from her review packet, books on healing charms disappear from their library, and her favorite robes are much too tight. Luckily, she tries them on the night before the test instead of waiting just before, and she's smiling disarmingly as she walks downstairs. Sirius can't stop laughing and Remus chuckles good-naturedly, shaking his head.
Lily gathers her three children quietly in the kitchen, which is a disaster area from Sirius swearing up and down that he can still make some of the potions from their fifth year at Hogwarts and then proceeding to make a bloody mess of the room. "I'm going to get a good night's sleep," she tells them gently, which she knows is scarier than when she actually looks angry. "I'm going to review in the morning, and everything will be where it ought to be. I'll be wearing my second-best robes, which I'm sure will fit when I try them on tomorrow." That bit with her robes being too small has Blaise's handiwork written all over it.
"Or what?" Harry asks daringly, arms folded across his chest.
"How would the three of you like to go to Hogwarts with no books and the wrong sized robes?" she asks sweetly. Harry looks away, Blaise nods reluctantly, and Tracey is shocked into gasping, "You wouldn't!"
"I would," Lily promises, and walks out, smiling when Sirius murmurs to her as she walks by him, "How in the world did three Gryffindors manage to raise a pack of Slytherins?"
As it turns out, Blaise is the only one sorted into Slytherin. Tracey is jealous and writes home saying that it's not fair, she's the one who's spent the most time with Professor Snape, and she's the one who ought to be in Slytherin. She's been put in Ravenclaw but thinks everyone she's met there is too stupid to be allowed to live, and insists that the fact that she's thinking something like that is another reason that she should have been put in Slytherin. (Her tune changes a bit after Harry introduces her to a girl from Gryffindor, Hermione, whom she gets along with very well, although Harry claims that all they ever do is argue over pointless things.)
Harry is pretty popular among the people he's never met due to his curse scar and the event associated with it, which he and his siblings think is one of the stupidest things they've ever heard. Harry says that he likes Charms best because it reminds him of Lily, then writes in the very next sentence that he's managed to get the Seeker position on Gryffindor's team, and could they please please please please buy him a new broom to celebrate?
Sirius spends the next week unable to talk about anything except Harry being the youngest Hogwarts seeker in over a hundred years. (Lily and Remus start playing a game when all three of them are together called, 'How Long Can You Make Sirius Shut Up?' Remus says that using charms is illegal, to which Lily responds that snogging him is illegal, so Sirius ends up dodging them as they try to shove socks in his mouth.) He brags loudly at Quality Quidditch Supplies and spends an hour and three-quarters deliberating over which broom will be best for his godson. During this time, Remus smiles and nods while Lily runs out and puts in an order for the dress robes Blaise has been wanting, then tag-teams Remus so he can get an out-of-print science-fiction book that Tracey's been quietly yearning for.
Harry is ecstatic and makes all of them swear they'll be there for his first game. Blaise thanks them for the dress robes and says that he and Tracey are quite happy for Harry, even if he would rather have Slytherin win the Quidditch cup; Tracey is a bit more blunt and says that she isn't jealous of Harry and doesn't need to be bribed into being happy for him, but thank you all the same for the book.
Lily gets a job at St. Mungo's as a Trainee Healer, since she wasn't able to do her time as one before she and James had had to go into hiding. She's placed in the first floor's Dai Llewellyn ward for serious bites and quickly falls in love with her work, even though the ward itself is a bit dingy looking and could use some brightening up.
There are three other Healers there, and as serious bites usually don't require much attention past the first day of a patient's stay, they all have their own things to do to look as if they're busy. Smethwyck, the Healer-in-Charge, is currently writing a forty-inch plea (in miniscule handwriting!) for the administration to change the color of the standard Healers' robes to a colour less hideous than lime green, and possibly colour-code the robes based on what floor a person works on. Healers Landry and Merrythought like to plan their wedding, the date of which changes constantly and ranges from an elopement within the next few days and a grand ball several years from now.
Smethwyck tells Lily on her first day that she has to attend all new arrivals and will get stuck with most of the boring work, but since they're never really full or busy for long stretches, she's expected to visit other wards and help if anyone needs an extra set of hands. She finds Spell Damage to be the most interesting area other than the one she's been assigned to and spends most of her extra time there, either correcting incorrectly applied charms or sitting in the Janus Thickey Ward with Frank and Alice. (It pains her to see them like this when she has such amazing memories of their work, and so she tries to at least visit them once a day.)
She's surprised to see Conrad and Luna Lovegood when she arrives at work one morning. Conrad has the pinched and pale face of someone who is trying not to panic as he speaks in hushed tones to Smethwyck, and Luna is sitting on a bed and calmly bleeding all over the floor. Lily automatically grabs a blood-replenishing potion from a supply of about a dozen that are kept out at all times and tilts it back into Luna's mouth. She drinks obediently.
Luna has her father's dreamy gaze and soft features with her mother's tangled blonde hair and tiny stature. Lily brings two more potions over to Luna and tells the girl to take both, then cleans the blood off with a quick charm and examines the bite. The bleeding is steady, but as the bite didn't hit an artery, Luna is fine for now. "What bit you?" Lily asks.
"Aquavirius Maggots," is Luna's answer.
Lily has never heard of those, so she continues to follow the standard procedure and cleans the wound. Her blood isn't clotting. "Are you anemic?"
"What's that?" Luna asks interestedly. Her tone is so like that of her mother's, whom Lily remembers from school, that she is momentarily stunned, then continues with her work. "Is something wrong?"
"You sound just like Emily," Lily says as she goes to a nearby shelf for another potion. "This one, now. Your blood isn't clotting together to scab and stop the bleeding like it should, so this is going to help it do just that." Lily casts a spell to monitor Luna's blood pressure and pulse, just in case clots form where they shouldn't.
"You knew my mother?"
Lily nods. "She was a few years ahead of me at Hogwarts."
"She was brilliant," Luna says proudly, the first sign of real emotion Lily's heard in her voice so far instead of mild and disaffected curiousity.
Lily keeps cleaning the blood and disinfecting the bite, and she nods. "Her death was an incredible loss to the magical community," she agrees, and a delighted smile appears on Luna's face.
She's almost late to Harry's first Quidditch game and rolls her eyes when Sirius complains about the colour of her robes. She's explaining that they were trying to keep a seventy-six year old man with a werewolf bite stable, but Sirius ignores her and just flicks his wand, changing the bright green to a more suitable deep red with gold trim. She smacks the back of his head and follows him up into the stands, moving past a few other people to sit between Remus and Severus. Sirius has been sworn to politeness, on threat of being stunned and forced to miss the game, so he is looking anywhere except at Severus.
The game is just like any of the games that she attended while she was in school, except that she has to try and watch for the snitch and both Seekers instead of following the Chasers with her eyes. Then she can't watch anything except for her son, because Harry's broom is jerking all over the place and it looks like he's doing everything he can to hold on.
Sirius is standing and shouting, then turns and starts yelling at Severus, who Lily now sees is muttering something under his breath and staring at Harry and not blinking at all. Lily tells Sirius to shut the fuck up and moves past Remus so she can shove him closer to Severus. "Help him out!" she orders, and Remus nods grimly and starts muttering the counter-jinx in unison with Severus. She smacks Sirius on the shoulder and tells him to help her look around for anyone else who looks suspicious.
Just as suddenly as it started, it ends, Gryffindor has won - Harry has caught the snitch in his mouth and he's perfectly fine - but it's hard to be excited when it seems that someone is trying to kill one of your children.
Harry is taken to the Hospital Wing before Lily can get to him. Sirius comes with her while Remus talks to Albus about what just happened, and they're startled to find Blaise in the bed next to Harry's, looking both mortified and smug at once as the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team tries to talk to him. "What happened to you?" Sirius demands as Madame Pomfrey fusses over Blaise's hand.
"A misunderstanding," Blaise says coolly. "Malfoy accidentally put his face where my fist happened to be."
"It's not his fault Malfoy's got such pointy bones," one of the Gryffindors chortles, glancing over at where Draco Malfoy is resting at the other end of the room.
"That's my boy," Sirius cheers, and Lily shakes her head and says pleadingly, "Aren't Slytherins supposed to be subtle?"
"Not when their families are insulted," Blaise says grimly, and Lily sighs, knowing Blaise and Harry are going to be the only thing Sirius will be able to talk about for at least the next week. She considers doing some overtime at work and letting Remus deal with it; at least Remus can shag him and maybe calm him down, and Lily doesn't even joke about trying something like that.
Shagging Sirius. Ew.
Tracey writes on a regular basis about everything interesting that happens to her; she's much more thorough about that than her brothers, and in return she tends to get owled small gifts more often. Lily knows all about the three-headed dog guarding something in the castle, Harry's antagonistic relationship with Draco Malfoy and the division forming within Slytherin based on those who support the late Voldemort's principles and those who don't, led oppositely by Malfoy and Blaise.
Tracey writes to let all three of her parents know about Harry and Ron's determined search to find out who was jinxing him at the match, and Tracey and Hermione's own search (which is much better organised and infinitely more likely to succeed, in Tracey's modest opinion,) to discover what's going on behind the scenes. They are both of the firm opinion that the attempt on Harry's life, a jinx that took two experienced wizards to counter, is somehow connected to whatever's going on in the area hidden by the three-headed dog. She can't tell them all the clues right now, and some of it is just instinct, but they know what they are doing.
Lily writes to ask all of her children to be careful in their endeavors, and she knows that Remus will write to ask them to stop and Sirius will write to encourage them. If the children are a study of contrasts, Lily thinks one night at dinner as Sirius models a volcano out of mashed potatoes, peas, and ketchup, ("You still have to eat that," Remus warns him,) then so are the three adults who are trying to be their parents.
They go out to lunch one day with Emmeline when everyone has the time. Remus is a bit uncomfortable around her, probably because Emmeline thinks it's the height of fine to flirt with Sirius's boyfriend, but with Lily laughing and Sirius flirting back madly, Emmeline's attention is taken up enough that she doesn't tease Remus very much.
They talk about what they've been doing lately. Remus is catching up on his Defense Against the Dark Arts studies, since Hogwarts hasn't kept a single DADA professor for more than a year since Galatea Merrythought retired, so he has a decent chance of getting the job next year. Lily spends her extra time petitioning to have more funding poured into the study and care of lycanthropy, or at least getting more money into the Dai Llewellyn Ward so those who have just been bitten can be given more extensive help. Sirius has been going to 12 Grimmauld Place just about every day as part of an ongoing project to get the house safe enough to live in, and Emmeline is... well...
"Don't tell anyone," she whispers excitedly, "but I plan to be minister within the next fifteen years. Probably inside of ten, if everything goes well."
Sirius makes a laughing snort. "Some secret! You've been telling people you were going to rule the world since you were eleven."
"I've decided to settle for magical Britain."
"If we don't tell anyone, how are we supposed to get people to vote for you?" Remus asks wryly.
Emmeline smiles brightly at him and laughs. "Remus, you darling, stop showing off. You know I love Sirius too much to have an affair with his boyfriend!" Remus forces a smile. "But really, Fudge is on his way out. It won't be too long before the public decides they want a new minister." She is sitting straight, looking very cheerful and confident, and Lily marvels at how they have all grown. Once upon a time, they were all eleven years old, at Hogwarts for the first time, learning magic and making friends. Now they have been through a war, they are adults and making their own way in the world.
One day, Harry, Blaise, and Tracey will graduate from Hogwarts. They will get jobs, be firm in their own beliefs and opinions, and have their own children. The idea scares Lily, so she pushes it out of her mind as she reminds Sirius of a prank he and James played in third year.
Emmeline and Sirius argue briefly over who will pay for the meal, eventually deciding to just split the bill between them. The two of them have places to be, so they walk off with a happy goodbye, leaving Lily and Remus alone.
"When did we get so old?" Lily complains once Sirius and Emmeline are out of earshot.
"You're the one who married a man whose life goal was to grow a beard that rivaled Dumbledore's."
Lily stares at Remus in horror. "No."
Remus grinned. "He wanted to be able to stroke it and look wise."
"I would have divorced him!" Lily exclaims, unable to keep herself from giggling at the mental image. "God, I miss him so much."
"He would have objected to you adopting Blaise and Tracey," Remus points out.
"He would have given in eventually," Lily tells him with a confident smile. "He was head-over-heels for me."
"That he was," Remus agrees.
They walk out of Diagon Alley and take the bus home, chatting about their memories of James. It generally boils down to the fact that he was an idiot, but everyone's an idiot when they're a teenager, and at least James was sincere and brutally honest about how he felt about anything and anyone. When he loved, he did it wholeheartedly, and he never loved anyone even half as much as he did Lily.
She's still thinking about James when she goes to bed that night and is surprised to find that instead of falling asleep with tears, she's smiling and feeling better than she has since the children left.
The next day is spent with Remus and Sirius, going through old photographs and reminding each other of memories they'd forgotten. It feels like the end of a sickness - she's drained, but she's feeling better in general, and she knows she'll be feeling fantastic once she can get some sleep.
Harry writes -
"Mum, Moony, and Padfoot,
"Before you get all 'I didn't know he could draw so well!' you should know that the drawing was done by Dean, who's really amazing at stuff like that. As a before-Christmas present he drew each of the Gryffindor first-years and handed them out. He managed to make Hermione look really nice (which Ron says shows how good an artist Dean is). So anyway I'm sending it to you so you can keep it safe and flat and stuff cause Dean is going to be famous some day and we should keep it.
"I don't know why Hermione's not in Ravenclaw, or maybe Tracey should've been sorted into Gryffindor like me and they could live together cause that's the only way they could ever spend any more time together than they already do. Blaise wanted to bet on whether they'd start dating but Ron agreed with him, and when they realized they both agreed on something they were so freaked out that they didn't talk about it again as far as I know.
"That's my weekly letter! Send me the latest Quidditch Weekly? I don't care that it'll barely get here before I leave. If you wanted a letter when I'm almost home then I should get my magazine before I leave too.
Tracey writes -
"Dear Mum and Dads,
"Concerning Harry: There was a mishap concerning a troll in the building which did not cause any trouble except for a bit of panic, which only hurt Professor Quirrel, who fainted but is otherwise fine. Hermione and I think this may be related to the business concerning Harry, due to some interesting things regarding Professor Snape, but as he was never in any danger, Hermione and I are not too worried. (Please don't mention my suspicious to Professor Snape, as having a teacher being overly concerned about our activities will make our investigation much harder.)
"Concerning Blaise: The division of Slytherin's first-years has gotten bad enough that Professor Snape spoke to both him and Draco Malfoy concerning their house's outward appearance. He believes that no matter what the internal matters are, Slytherin must show a front of solidarity to others. I found this out by questioning Pansy Parkinson, whom I think fancies Blaise.
"Concerning Myself: I am fine. Hermione and I are mostly spending our time studying and trying to one-up each other in our classes, in a friendly rivalry sort of way. I am quite satisfied with myself in that I won Ravenclaw's monthly spelling bee, displacing Lisa from her three-month reign. (Mum: The spell I won with was the freezing charm you taught me last summer, so thank you!) Cho Chang won in the second-year division, which I'm glad for as she's very kind and I look up to her a bit.
"Concerning Others: Professor Snape has a gash on his leg. I don't know how he got it except for various outlandish rumours. I saw Madame Pomfrey in the hall and she asked me to send you her regards.
"Tracey Ellen Davis-Potter."
Blaise writes -
"Dear Moony, Padfoot, and Mum:
"Your last letter makes me think that Tracey could be the gossip queen of Hogwarts if she put her mind to it. I'm doing just fine, I barely talk to her or Harry. Please tell Tracey to shut her mouth, since when I tell her, she just ignores me. See you when I come home for the hols.
Lily decides to throw a big Christmas dinner, even though Molly Weasley has already invited them over. She and Remus choose recipes and waver between wanting Sirius to help and threatening him until he stays far, far away from the kitchen and its many bladed and fiery distractions. Tracey asks that Severus be invited while Blaise and Sirius beg the opposite, so Lily compromises and invites him over for a lunch full of leftovers on Christmas Day. Blaise and Sirius immediately decide to do something else on the twenty-fifth, although they can't figure out exactly what they'll be doing since most stores are closed for the holiday. (Remus suggests they follow the Jewish tradition of going to a movie theatre and eating Chinese takeaway, which is noted and being considered.)
Other than that, there are no objections as to who Lily wants to invite - Conrad and Luna Lovegood, and Emmeline. (Emmeline declines with deepest regrets, as she's already accepted an invitation to the Malfoys' Christmas dinner, but the Lovegoods are happy to come.) At the request of her children, she invites some others - Hermione Granger and her parents for Tracey, Daphne Greengrass for Blaise, and Neville Longbottom for Harry. (Harry asks if Lily wants to invite Neville's grandmother as well, and the sudden and horrified "NO!" that pops out of Lily's mouth means that she has to explain why not, preferably without calling Augusta Longbottom a stubborn old bint who always wanted more from her children than they were giving her.)
Lily has never met Hermione or Daphne, although she remembers Daphne's father as being a Slytherin a year ahead of her. Daphne is the first to show up, and Blaise's demeanor shifts as she arrives - Lily's laidback son stands a little straighter and smirks a little more. Daphne thanks them sweetly for the invitation and gives them a beautiful bouquet of flowers in an elegant blue vase, which Sirius seems to be fairly impressed by. (When taken aside, Sirius explains to Lily and Remus that the flowers and arrangement chosen, along with that particular style of vase, convey deep respect and an extension of friendship from the Greengrass family to their household. "How did you know that?" Lily asks, to which Sirius shrugs uncomfortably and says, "It's a pureblood thing.")
Lily sees Neville during the time it takes after he arrives for Harry to pull him into the yard to teach him how to play football. Tracey waits a very polite and impatient five minutes while Lily greets Hermione's parents before asking if they may be excused, then running off upstairs.
Jake and Marie Granger are both very sensible and intelligent people and - to everyone's relief - know enough about wizarding society and culture for them to have a normal conversation without needing explanations every minute. Lily and Remus tag-team the cooking and entertaining the adults, both of which are oddly relaxing and fun at the same time. Conrad and Luna arrive a few minutes before dinner is served with the strangely normal excuse of having had trouble finding their floo powder. The Grangers seem to spend a moment silently debating whether or not to tell the Lovegoods that the Christmas decorations they are wearing are usually used on trees and not people, but eventually just compliment them on their festive wear. Both Lovegoods beam happily at the compliment.
Dinner is a pleasant event, with good conversation and amazing food, mostly thanks to Remus's knack for spices. The Grangers are first to leave, as Jake and Marie both have cavities to fill early tomorrow morning, and Neville is nervously explaining that his nine pm curfew actually means eight-thirty when Lily hears an explosion. She thanks each and every god and wizard that has ever existed that even though her first thought is that Sirius or Tracey did it by accident somehow, her instinct is to jump up and shout, "Protego!"
A few feet away, Sirius and Remus have done the same thing. Conrad has his arms around Luna and Tracey, who were closest to him. Harry and Blaise are both shielding Daphne by way of being in front of her - Blaise spares a glance to glare at Harry, who doesn't notice. Tracey makes an aggravated noise and moves out of Conrad's grasp as three trolls lumber into the living room, one after another.
Options run through Lily's mind, a bit slower than she's used to, likely due to the fact that it's been ten years since she's had cause to be afraid for her life. She was never good at curses, and cutting charms will cause a horrific mess. She casts one anyway, hoping to sever one of their necks, but it barely even draws blood. "Spell-resistant skin!" Remus yells as he ducks the swing of one troll's club, and Lily is too busy rolling out of the way of another to hate herself for forgetting.
Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Harry leaving the room and is grateful that he has enough sense to leave the fight to the adults. Sirius goes flying across the room and hits the wall with a sickening sound that is something between a thud and a squish, and one troll goes down when Remus ducks under its grasp and casts a piercing charm with his wand directly over its heart. Lily summons a knife from the kitchen and casts a floating charm somewhat studier than wingardium leviosa in a steel-lined voice, sending the blade straight through into troll's open mouth and up into its brain. She's ready to deal with the last troll in the same way when she sees that its feet are frozen to the floor and its own club is dropping onto its head. The troll falls to the ground, and Lily summons the knife out of her previous kill and slashes open the throat of the unconscious troll.
"I'll check on Sirius," Lily says as Remus shouts, "Where's Harry?" She moves to Sirius's side, trying to calmly cast diagnostic spells when all she wants to do is scream. She looks over and sees that Remus has left the room, Luna is bent over her unconscious father with a serene expression, and Blaise is smiling at Daphne. "He fainted," Tracey says when she sees Lily's worried expression. Tracey looks as if she's about to be sick, and all the children are pale and nervous-looking, but none of them are crying or hysterical, and Lily couldn't be more proud.
Sirius has a head wound, which Lily quickly cleans and mends. He has other cuts and bruises, and could stand to swallow a blood-replenishing potion and some Pepper-Up, but otherwise looks fine. She is moving Sirius into a more comfortable position when she sees a flash of green shine through the window. Lily shoves down the urge to vomit as she stands and runs outside.
Remus is holding a sobbing Harry. A figure on the ground is swathed in cloth, but Lily can see over the covering on his head. The man who had been teaching her children Defense Against the Dark Arts, Professor Quirrel, stares blankly out of one side of the head.
Voldemort stares out of the other.
Lily shrieks, and screams, and casts cutting charm after severing charm after piercing charm. She casts Cruciatus and Avada Kedavra and everything else she can think of to make it dead, dead, dead, and is still screaming useless charms and curses at the corpse after Remus has taken her wand, after her children are holding onto her and begging her to stop.
Lily sits on her bed and does not sleep nor eat nor speak for the rest of the night. Then the next morning, and that night too.
Around five am, she comes downstairs and pours herself a cup of coffee, and cries on Remus and Sirius. Pancakes and toast and cereal are ready for the children when they wake up, and they tell their mother how much they love her and how dear she is to them and that Blaise was being stupid and Tracey had been mean last night, and Harry is a dirty tattletale. Lily laughs and hugs them, and threatens to cut off all their hair in their sleep. (She's actually done that, one night when she was drunk and annoyed at them, but she only got as far as Harry before she lost interest and stumbled off to do something else. She was extremely relieved to see that it had grown back by the time she woke up the next morning, and was appropriately surprised when Harry preformed his 'first' bit of accidental magic several months later.)
Lily is given two weeks paid time off from work, which is shortened to one week when Lily looks pleadingly at Smethwyck from inside a small mob of reporters and Ministry officials. Lily doesn't need time to think and brood and remember every single little detail of that night, she needs to spend a bit of time with her kids and then get back to helping people. She's happy to have Aurors put extra wards on her home, she's happy to take precautions against any of her children getting hurt or kidnapped, but she is done fighting for the sake of the side of good. She lost her husband to the war, and that sacrifice gave everyone ten years of peace.
Sirius calls her a coward, and even though Remus understands her feelings, she can tell that he expects more from her as well. It hurts, but it's okay.
For the first time since they all moved in together, Sirius and Remus sleep at the apartment that they convinced Sirius to keep ten years ago. Tracey is confused, but lets Lily sleep in her bed with her when she asks.
The children are going back to Hogwarts before long, and Lily is left mostly alone. Sirius and Remus start sleeping at Godric's Hollow again, but Lily focuses on work and the two men mostly make plans as to how to train the children over the summer to defend themselves and what to do in case of an emergency. They can't talk about the same things and they barely spend any time together.
Lily leaves a note ('I'm sorry') and a newspaper article on the kitchen table when she goes to work one day. When she comes home, her two best friends are there waiting for her with dinner ready and assurances that Sirius had nothing to do with the making of the food. They don't discuss it again, Lily's refusal to fight anymore or their opinion of that refusal, and everything's okay again, or as close to okay as possible.
Tracey's letter arrives a week after she's left, mostly informing them that Hermione is also annoyed that they didn't figure out who was after Harry and that she's won the spelling bee again. Professor Snape has taken over Quirrel's job for the rest of the year, and Professor Slughorn has been dragged out of retirement in order to teach Potions. The postscript is untidy and the ink on it is blotchy, but it conveys congratulations from all the children on her successful campaign to have her ward at St. Mungo's moved somewhere with more space and given the funding necessary to provide all newly bitten werewolves with three nights' worth of Wolfsbane Potion for their first full moon. Lily suspects that Tracey was reading the Daily Prophet on her way to the owlry and didn't actually tell her siblings before sending the letter, but she appreciates the sentiment anyway.
Letters arrive from all three children the very next day, all wanting to be the first to let them know that Blaise, in a very grand fashion that lost Slytherin twenty points for making a spectacle and disrupting a very old spell, asked Daphne Greengrass to go out with him. Blaise wrote in his own letter (sent because he didn't trust his bigmouth sister to get the facts right) that he bribed and blackmailed several seventh-years into changing the Great Hall's ceiling, which usually projects whatever weather is currently outside, into snowing from a beautiful blue sky whose clouds spelled out the request, "Daphne, will you date this unworthy boy named Blaise?"
It is agreed by all three parents that Blaise's letter wins due to a clear presentation of the facts and an enclosed photo of the event, although Tracey comes in a close second for the hilarity of her frantic handwriting, "I thought Blaise was gay!!" Harry's letter is more of a scrawled note and a question about Transfiguration, though he makes up for it later when he sends them a drawing by his friend Dean of Blaise and Daphne holding hands.
Severus owls Lily to say that he should technically be asking Blaise's parents to come in for a chat, which is a thinly veiled way of saying he would inform them that if they saw fit to raise tiny little spawn then they should at least do the world the favor of making sure the buggers behave, but any meeting would probably just involve trading insults with Sirius and should therefore be avoided so as to spare everyone the annoyance.
What it boils down to is that Slytherins are expected to show off when it suits them and the fact that Blaise is a first-year only does him good: he's too young to be given any truly serious punishment, and the fact that he was able to organise a stunt of that caliber has given him extremely good social status within his house. Please sign the enclosed parchment and owl it back so I may prove that I actually bothered with all this, sincerely, Severus Snape.
Somehow, life keeps going. Her family may have been attacked by a man with Voldemort in the back of his head, but one of her sons has a girlfriend. Harry continually wins his Quidditch games, which is not only amazing, it's unprecedented, he's the first ever Seeker in his first year of school to play a perfect year. Blaise is making plans to visit Daphne's family over the summer, and Tracey loses March's spelling bee to Lisa Turpin but wins again in April. Her children and her friends are all healthy and happy, and maybe Peter has managed to survive and is out there looking for his master, and maybe Voldemort will be trying to find another way to come back, but people are ready and waiting for him this time. The world won't let him rise to power again.
Lily thinks of years to come, of more incredible stories to tell, of getting older and watching her children become adults. She may not want to fight a physical battle, but she will still fight for social reform, for equal rights for werewolves and better treatment for those who can't pay for their healthcare.
There are so many things that the future might bring and so many things that it might not, but in the end, the truth remains the same - through death and birth, joy and sorrow, life just keeps going.
And that, Lily thinks, is the long and short of it.