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she learns to bake

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How'd you lose your husband?

An accident, she'd say, but that is a lie. His death was beautifully orchestrated and wonderfully executed. There was nothing accidental about that.

She never mentions the baby. As far as they are concerned, she has never been a mother and she never will be.

So young and so pretty, tragedies happen to the best of us, dear.

Do they know how young and pretty James was? How his very essence radiated goodness, loyalty, and light? Could they ever imagine how beautiful her son would have been?

She knows how beautiful he would have been, inside and out. Just like his father and just like his mother.

But it's been ten years since she saw her husband. It's been ten years since she heard her baby cry for the last time, and it's been ten years since she's been herself.

She sees Sirius, sometimes. He spends most of his time as Padfoot. She knows it's the only way he can sleep, and being a dog is easy. People throw him scraps and he barks at the birds on the sidewalks and he even manages to wag his tail. No one asks a dog about his dead brother. No one asks a dog what happened to the baby.

Dogs can easily kill rats. He gets satisfaction from that.

She sees Remus, sometimes. He pops in and out of her life in different states of physical health and wellness. They don't talk like they used to. They sit in silence, swirling their teacups and remembering and forgetting everything all at once.

And Peter? Dead. Death Eaters killed him, betrayed him, when Voldemort died that evening. And the really fucked up thing? Lily Potter attended the funeral and cried, cried, cried for her lost friend, because the Peter Pettigrew who killed her family is not the boy she knew in school. The real Peter Pettigrew died years ago without anyone noticing and she mourned for him. But that was years ago, when things were still fresh. She hasn't cried since then.

Lily Potter opens a little bakery in a new neighborhood, for from Godric’s Hollow and far from the two bodies that rest beneath the earth, far far away from the image of that tiny coffin that haunts her at night. She finds that baking is the closest thing to her old favorite subject, and the manual labor helps her to forget.

Her sister lives near by. Her sister and her husband, who is alive, and her baby, who is alive, but no longer a baby. Lily finds that she doesn't have the energy to wonder how that happened.

Men ask about her, of course. The pretty baker with tired eyes and scars running up her body. They litter her hands, her arms, her neck and her cheeks and they fascinate the men. Where does that one end, sweetheart?

James knew every detail. James knew their story, their origin, their meaning. He knew where they crisscrossed her body, he knew how to run his fingertips across them and make them electric.

The baby had no scars. And he never will.

A golden locket that hangs from her neck is the only physical evidence of her former life. Inside the large heart lies an elaborate engagement ring and a lock of hair, tied in gold ribbon. On one side is the picture of a man, who is laughing and smiling. Next to him is a baby, who is laughing and waving. They lie completely still in their frames, but there's something alive about the way the man looks at her. The baby's eyes do the same, but Lily Potter hasn't been able to open the locket since the day she buried their memories in it. She's afraid to see them. She's afraid to remember that they were real, that James Potter had lived and loved and fought and died. She's petrified to remember that her baby had lived and laughed and had cried, cried, cried for her and she couldn't save him.

The cashier's desk has a drawer for spare pens and inside is a wooden stick that's been laid carelessly amongst the writing utensils. It's a beautiful ten and a quarter inches of willowood, and it hasn't been touched in nearly twenty years.

Lily Potter learns to rebuild. Lily Potter learns that she cannot build a house on broken foundation, and oh how she has been broken. She's still trying to mend the patches but there's giant cracks, cracks that are much larger than her husband had been and exponentially larger than her son had ever grown to be. She learns that a broken home can house her, because she has nowhere else to go.

Lily Potter gives children free biscuits when they come in. She gives rotten customers the older loaves of bread, but she always makes sure that whoever comes into her bakery hungry leaves warm and satisfied.

She becomes the neighborhood baker, opening the store early in the morning and closing late in the evening, and she does this for years. A big black dogs sits at the doorstep one morning and she lets him inside with a smile. Eventually the dog lives in the bakery and the two grow old and gray together. He lives long for a dog, almost impossibly so, but Lily Evans can still remember a time where magic made all things seem possible.

A man filters in and out of the bakery, a regular. He throws the dog a chicken leg and he sits with the baker, and they swirl their cups in thought. Remus Lupin has been old and gray for a while, and Lily finally catches up to him.

The dog passes on one day, a quiet death, like he simply forgot to wake up one morning. The man who came for tea and peace so often no longer comes in, and she can only hope that he died a quiet death, too.

It's late one evening when Lily Potter decides to open the locket. The dough is set for the morning and is already rising, a sour smell in the air that she has found comfort and meaning in. She doesn't know why she decides to open it except for that she misses the old dog and the gray man and she wants to see a familiar face or two.

Her old bones crack as she slides down the wall to the floor, clutching her necklace before she settles down on the tile. She thought they locket may give her issue but it springs awake at her touch. Her husband smiles up at her. Harry does, too, and she waves back at him.

She doesn't notice the change in the air. She is too focused on the ghosts of her past to realize the ghosts in the room with her now, but when he speaks she hears him and she knows that it's real.

"Alright, Evans?"

Lily's eyes snap up and she smiles. Her bones do not ache and there is a lightness to her body and she's crying when she breathes out for the last time, " James ."

He holds his hand out to her, that devilish grin tugging at the corner of his lip and his hair warped all over the place, even messier than she had allowed herself to remember. He's still 21, wearing his favorite old jumper and the jeans she always hated but he loved, and when he grabs her hand she is no longer gray and tired but red haired and vibrant. He pulls her right up into his arms, embracing her and burying his head into her shoulders as she rests her's on his chest, breathing him in for the first time in decades.

"What's taken you so long?" She asks. He shrugs easily, just like he used to.

"You've always been stubborn and intent on making me wait," he tells her. "But there's someone else to see you, too."

Lily looks past James' shoulder to see his double, only not quite. Her son stands with his hands in his pockets and his own glasses (of course he needs glasses) and his hair is askew. He’s not the baby she knew but an adolescent who looks at her through her own green eyes.

"I’ve missed you, Mum," Harry smiles and she smiles too because those are his first words as far she's concerned. Lily walks up to her son and holds his cheeks in her hands, looking up at him because Merlin did he inherit his father's height.

"I'm proud of you," Lily tells Harry, and even if it did not make exact sense, he nods and she hugs him tightly, just the way a mother would.

"Your sourdough was always my favorite," she hears, and she turns to see Sirius Black gracefully sitting on her countertop, munching on a whole loaf for himself.

"Really?" Remus Lupin rose his eyebrows curiously. "I much prefer the pumpernickel-- though they're all good, Lily, of course."

"Of course," she grins back, and for the first time since they left her, she feels the warmth of the fire oven and the warmth of feeling in her heart. Sirius jokingly throws a bit of bread at Harry, who immediately moves to retaliate.  Lily feels James slip his arm round her waist and she leans into him.

"What happens now?"  

"Whatever you want," he responds. "We're just the welcoming committee."

"Are the others there? Mary? Gideon and Fabian, Benjy? Marlene?”

“My parents, your parents, even the cat.”

“Alright,” she says, and she looks up at James and he’s dazzling, there’s a bright light coming from him just as she’s always seen inside him.

“Home,” she says, “Let’s go home.”