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The Only Faith We Have (is faith in us)

Chapter Text

And when the wave approaches
Take our ashes to the ocean
Who cares if hell awaits?
We're having drinks at heaven's gate

-Portugal. The Man

***

James was momentarily distracted by mashing a sliver of ginger and a wedge of lemon into hot water with one of the flimsy, wooden stir sticks to realise someone was standing in his office. He glanced up by chance, his eyes falling on the person in there, and he groaned, trying not to fall forward and bash his face on the table.

“Oy, Potter, did you know Crouch is in your…” came a rather unhelpful voice to James’ left.

“Yes, thank you Bagman, for that astute observation.” James turned to Sirius, who was glowering at his mobile—probably stuck on the little free the ghost level of Bubble Witch, and elbowed him hard.

“Oy! I was in the middle of something,” Sirius growled, but he took the cup James was waggling at him. “A please might be nice. You’re the one that knocked her up, not all of us.”

“Yes, well, whilst I’m getting my ass handed to me by Crouch, you’re going to go make sure my pregnant wife has something to keep her from harfing up her insides all afternoon,” James said pointedly.

Sirius rolled his eyes, but wandered off with the cup as James prepared himself for whatever madness was about to befall him. He took slow, measured steps as he recounted his most recent cases, trying to come up with anything which would have Crouch in his office. And okay, so maybe when he was working with Sirius they weren’t the most professional all the time. And maybe with that tube flasher the other day they might have taken an extra long lunch and had a pint or two—and maybe James had dared Sirius to jump on the bar and shake his arse when Wrecking Ball came on the speaker…

But he was pretty sure no one had reported it.

And apart from that they’d done their jobs properly, and James was even ahead on his paperwork since he was trying to keep everything sorted before the baby came. The last thing he needed was take-home work on his parent leave.

So whatever Crouch had, James had to assume it wasn’t to tell him off, but to ask him for a favour. Or, god forbid, give him a fucking case. The cases on Crouches’ desk were the worst.

He breathed, then pushed his office door open and poked his head in. “Morning, sir. Good to see you.”

“I know it’s not good to see me, Potter. Flattery gains you nothing.”

James clenched his teeth, but nodded and gave Crouch wide berth as he manoeuvred round him to his desk. Sitting back, he gestured at the chair, but Crouch ignored him, choosing to loom instead.

“How can I help you today, sir?”

“We’ve a…high risk problem,” Crouch replied, then his eyes warily flickered over the door before he walked over, shutting it tight. “I’m gathering a team.”

James licked his lips, not sure if he should feel terrified or excited. “Alright, how can I help?”

“We’ve got one of Riddle’s operatives to switch over, but he was found out before we could get him into protective custody,” Crouch said, and James immediately bristled. Any mention of Riddle set him on edge. The man was too clever for his own good, an enigma, with eyes in so many places it was starting to feel like they’d never take him down.

James and Lily had been targeted briefly—James had been shot, and by the time he’d recovered, Riddle had disappeared. Apart from a few petty crimes, they hadn’t had word or ties to him in months. But James knew it was far from over. Just hearing Riddle’s name made the scar on his chest twinge, and he ran his fingers through his hair.

“He has invaluable information, but he’s recovering from the attack. When he didn’t show up to our rendezvous point, we had a few men tracking him. They found his GPS signal by some luck—picked him up in this cave in Dover.”

James’ eyes went wide. “He’s going to recover, then?”

“We weren’t sure at first, but he pulled through. Released from hospital two days ago, and we need not only round the clock security, but security I can trust.”

James knew what he was talking about. There was a leak in almost every department of government, and the Met was no exception. It would be absurd under any other circumstances that Crouch would be requesting that a DCI provide round the clock protection for a civilian. Except in this case, because these were not ordinary circumstances.

There was also something in Crouch’s face, something that told James he was holding something back.

“Sir, is there something else I should know?”

At that, Crouch looked uncomfortable. He shifted back and forth on his feet, looking anywhere but at James. “The civilian,” he said, then cleared his throat and sighed. “His name is Regulus Black.”

The name hit James like a sack of bricks, and he actually fell back in his seat a little, the breath punched out of his lungs. He hadn’t heard that name since school. Since Hogwarts. Since Sirius had written him off for being a racist twat, joining up with a gang of bigots who were following the up and coming MP with his purification ideals. Sirius, who couldn’t believe his brother—born in Morocco to an Arab mother, would disregard his upbringing like that.

James didn’t find it so strange, though. Because he’d met Walburga and Orion. Walburga had been obsessive about their name, about conforming to the Black family, about erasing where they’d come from, and wanting something else for her sons.

But Sirius had always thought different from his parents, and had hoped for better from his brother until it became clear there was no saving Regulus. So Sirius ran away, wrote him off, and swore never to speak his name again.

James remembered the pain. He remembered when Regulus was younger, he remembered the conflict in his eyes near the end, just as James and Sirius were leaving Hogwarts. As shocked as he was, in hindsight, this was no surprise to hear. James had always, very quietly, believed in his ability to follow in Sirius’ footsteps—whatever way he could.

James licked his lips, then said, “Alright.”

Crouch deflated with relief, then reached into his pocket and pulled out a small name card—blank, with an address scribbled across the top. “Your orders come from me or Albus alone, no one else knows about this. It’s of the utmost importance this does not get out. To anyone. Are we clear?”

“So I’m just going to disappear?” James asked, eyes wide. “My partner…my wife…”

“As for Evans,” Crouch said with a wave of his hand, “I’m partnering her on this with you. The two of you will take shifts in the house. As for Black well…I’m sure you can appreciate why it’s best he not know.”

James clenched his jaw, but gave a terse not and sent a quiet hope into the universe that when Sirius finally realised why it had all been kept secret, he’d understand and forgive James for it. Peering out the window, James saw Lily sat in her cube, leant over the partition to talk to Marlene, the warm ginger-lemon water in her hands.

“Use my office to speak with her,” James said abruptly. He said it to give Lily a feeling of power or leverage she wouldn’t feel in Crouch’s office. “I’ll send her in.”

“Thank you, Potter.”

James wanted to say, don’t thank me yet, but wisely he kept his mouth shut, and instead stepped out of the office and signalled to Lily. She sipped her water, then rose and walked over to meet him.

“So, did he sack you?” she asked, a twinkle in her eye.

James rolled his eyes. “No, he didn’t. And thank you for the vote of confidence.”

“You know I love you,” she said.

James felt the urge to reach for her, to splay his hand against her belly which was still flat, the pregnancy only just gone ten weeks. He didn’t though. Instead he kissed her cheek lightly, ignoring Sirius’ shout that James now owed a fiver to the PDA jar. He ignored him in favour of leaning in and saying, “Crouch wants to see you in my office.”

“Can you tell me what it’s about?”

“It’s best you hear it from him,” James said. “He’s going to ask you to do something, and I don’t want your answer influenced by mine.”

She bit her lip, but straightened her shoulders and nodded. “See you on the other side, then?”

James sighed, and watched her walk away before he sauntered over and sank into Remus’ abandoned chair. His desk was still put together, in spite of his extended medical leave, and James stared at the photo of Remus and Sirius at Brighton two summers ago, before the diagnosis and before all of…well. Before all of this. Before James was shot, and Lily was stalked, and long before he knew Regulus was alive.

“Why do you look like someone killed your dog?” Sirius asked.

“James doesn’t even have a dog,” Peter chimed in helpfully. “Did someone kill your cat?”

“Cheerful lot, aren’t you?” James grumbled. He leant back in the chair, looking over at Sirius who was watching him warily. James knew he was the only one allowed to touch Remus’ things whilst he was away, but he was trying to be respectful anyway. “How’s Moony?”

“Better today,” Sirius said, waving his hand. “Left him singing in the kitchen and attempting to make some kugel without burning the house down. I already have flats bookmarked in my browser.”

“What a lucky man he is, to be married to someone with such faith in him,” James said.

“Piss off. You remember the brisket for seder.”

Peter laughed. “No one is going to forget that disaster.”

James shrugged. “Well, tell him to hurry up and get back to work. I can only deal with you lot for so long, and I’m pining. I miss him.”

Before Sirius could say anything else, Lily emerged from James’ office looking pale and a little shaken. She locked eyes with James, and gave him the smallest nod. James looked round and saw Crouch walking straight for the lifts, and he let out the breath he’d been holding.

He could read her easy now, and he knew she’d also said yes. Which meant they were going to effectively disappear from their friends, family, and the rest of the world until this was all sorted. It would just be up to the others now to bring Riddle in, and let him stand trial for all his crimes.

And James could only hope that Regulus had the evidence Crouch was hoping for, to put the man away for a long, long time.

***

“Tomorrow, seven,” Lily said as she walked into the bedroom. She was wearing one of James’ old Gryffindor football shirts, and a pair of pyjama bottoms slung low on her hips because any sort of pressure against her stomach irritated her. Her hair was mussed, face drawn, and James could read the tension in her shoulders like a book.

He didn’t blame her. He felt the same—not sure how he was meant to explain all of this to their friends when they got back, and how he’d ever be able to look Sirius in the eye again for keeping this secret. James wanted to say it was the job, but in truth, that wasn’t it. James knew the pain Sirius felt the day he tried to carve his brother out of him, and it had left a gaping wound ever since. James was too afraid to give him a false sense of hope when he didn’t know exactly why Regulus had done this. It could be something small, petty, like revenge. It could be self-preservation. It could be that he’d truly come to understand how twisted his mind had been, how he’d been twisted since birth by his parents who truly believed that ethnic cleansing could solve problems.

But James didn’t know, and Sirius was already dealing with enough since Moony had gotten sick and well… he was willing to take the emotional hit later, if it meant sparing Sirius any more pain.

Laid out on the bed, James watched Lily tie her hair back, then he opened his arms to her as she crawled across the duvet and sprawled out over him. She wasn’t always affectionate like this—she preferred to be near, not touching all the time. But it was clear what she was asking for now, and he was happy to give it to her.

His hand toyed with a few curls at the nape of her neck, and he dipped his head forward, breathing in the sweet, floral scent of her soap. “You alright?”

“Been better,” she muttered, voice muffled from the front of his shirt.

He reached down, fingers tipping her chin up so she could look him in the eye. “You don’t have to do this, you know.”

She scoffed, rolling her eyes which looked almost viciously green in the light of their bedside lamp. “Potter, I’m knocked up with your spawn. You really think I’m going to let you disappear to some undetermined location to take care of a man who was previously working for the maniac who shot you? You almost died!”

James did his best to soothe the sharp edges of her tone, running his hand along the centre of her back. The tension bled out after a second, and he pressed his lips to her forehead. “I would never leave you. You know that.”

“You can’t actually promise that, you idiot. And I’m not about to let you throw yourself into this mess without me there to save your arse when you inevitably try to sacrifice it for someone else.”

James huffed a laugh, pulling her a little closer. She shifted, rolling onto her side, cradled between the V of his legs. His hand drifted to her belly, pushing up her shirt, pulling the waist of the pyjamas down so he could splay his fingers wide along soft skin that would soon stretch and swell round as their baby grew. “I’m happy you’re coming with me. I don’t want to do this without you. You’re the only one I trust to save me from my own stupidity.”

“Well I’m the only one not stupid enough to get into it with you. Which is why he didn’t choose Black.”

“Well, that and the other thing.”

She sighed quietly. “Yeah. The other thing.”

“And he’s got Moony at home. I don’t think Si would have taken the job anyway.” James closed his eyes and tried not to let how troubled this year had been get to him. He brushed his fingers along her hair, twisting curls sticking out the end of her bobble round his finger. “It’s not a dangerous mission anyway. I mean, not really. Albus and Crouch have him secured and our job is to make sure he doesn’t get away, doesn’t contact anyone, and stays alive until the trial.”

“Crouch said they’re days away from getting the warrant. They’re processing evidence right now. If they play their cards right, they could be in front of the court in a matter of weeks,” Lily said, her voice getting sleepy now.

James dragged his fingers along the skin of her belly, feeling full of nerves now that there was another life involved in this. He trusted her, of course. Trusted her that she’d keep their child safe, but they didn’t live easy lives. Even when things were calm—but the state of the world wasn’t that anymore, and the idea of bringing a child into it sounded terrifying. But he never spoke this aloud. He wanted this too much with her. A life, a family, a future. Voicing his doubts felt too much like putting a dark cloud over what they could have, and he wasn’t willing to take that risk.

His eyes started to ache from exhaustion, and he knew they had a long morning ahead of them the moment Lily’s alarm went off. So he shifted her carefully, Lily curling on her side facing James with one of her thighs tucked between his. He pulled the duvet over the both of them, flicked off the lamp, and let her soft breaths lull him to sleep.

***

Morning came, and with it hectic, last-minute packing, and setting their away messages on voicemail before rushing out the door with take-away teas and James still missing a shoe. Lily drove to the address, the GPS leading them to a benign looking building, like an architect’s office—something that people would see, but never notice.

Lily had been given the code to get in the door, and inside they headed up a staircase to the first floor, and into a board-room where both Crouch and Dumbledore were sat, coffees and pastry in front of them.

“Glad you could make it,” Albus said pleasantly.

James tried not to roll his eyes as he sat, shaking his head at the pastries, glancing at Lily who looked green at the very thought of trying to choke anything down this early. Her morning sickness had started with a vengeance just a week before, and it was a struggle to get through the first hours of the day.

She had a white-knuckled grip on her travel mug, but her face was passive. “We’ve packed and we’re all set. I suppose someone from the department is going to explain our absence?”

“I was going to suggest a holiday,” Crouch said, and rolled his eyes when Dumbledore scoffed, “but Albus seems to think your friends would expect access to communication if that was the case. So we’ve decided that the two of you are going into protective custody as well.”

James’ eyebrows raised. “…what’s that now?”

“An attack happened at your flat last night. By the time anyone comes to investigate—I expect Black won’t be able to stay away—there will be something staged.”

“Bloody hell,” James muttered, leaning forward. “If a single thing is broken…”

“You’ll be compensated,” Crouch said mildly.

“That’s not what I— ” James began, but quieted when Lily touched his arm.

“It’ll be classified, and there will be record of it in the system, but it’ll be a dummy account in the case of our leak,” Crouch said with a shrug.

Albus nodded sagely. “We’re no closer to pinpointing who it is than we are to getting real charges against Riddle to stick. Which is why we need Regulus.”

James looked at him carefully. “And what is it he has against him?”

“I’m afraid we can’t say,” Crouch cut in, as though he feared Albus might actually give away all their secrets. “Classified. But suffice it to say, this is the only thing we’ve got if we want to make a conviction stick.”

James pursed his lips, not for the first time thinking that if he were a worse man, he’d probably just find someone to take Riddle out and save everyone the trouble. The world wouldn’t be better off with a man like that having the opportunity to escape prison, or even chance being found not guilty. Setting someone like him free in the world was asking for disaster.

But James wasn’t that sort of man. So he bit his tongue and nodded.

“We expect Regulus will be doing his part in a month or so,” Albus said as he nibbled at the end of his pastry. “But there’s no guarantees. You realise this, yes?”

“And you realise Lily is pregnant,” James pointed out, “so wherever we’re at, we do expect access to care.”

“I’ve arranged a midwife, of course,” Crouch said, sneering at the word midwife as though it was dirty. “Someone within the organisation. The appointments will be held nearby, as we can’t let anyone know the identity of the others in the house. But she’s not the first person in her…condition, to have been put under protective custody.”

It didn’t make James feel entirely better, but he was at least grateful they’d thought about it before he brought it up. “Then I suppose we’re ready to go.”

Crouch nodded, then pushed himself to stand. “Your things are being transferred to my car, and we’ll be on our way. I just need your mobiles…”

“What…” James started.

But Lily merely sighed and plucked hers from her pocket, then deftly reached over and grabbed James’ out of his jacket. She passed them over across the table, and Crouch gave James a bland look.

“You’ll be provided with another, which can make calls in an emergency—to myself or another member of the team. Other than that, you’re off the grid. Completely.”

“Fantastic,” James said, the full weight of what he’d agreed to hitting him. He relaxed only a fraction when Lily’s hand slid into his, and squeezed tightly.

***

James had been doing his best to prepare whatever the hell he was going to say to Regulus when they got into the house. It was twenty minutes into the drive he realised where they were going, and he wasn’t sure if he should be surprised or nervous that the safehouse was apparently in Brighton. But he supposed hiding in plain sight was just as good, and he was fairly sure Riddle wouldn’t have his people combing a little tourist seaside town for his defected follower.

“Before we get there,” Crouch said as he turned down a narrow street, “you should know Regulus cannot under any circumstances, be spotted.”

James blinked. “…alright? I mean, is he high profile? Would people notice…”

“Riddle believes he’s dead,” Crouch said, and James made a noise of surprise, twisting in his seat to look at Lily who was staring with wide eyes. “He was left for dead, and it was a damned miracle the doctors were able to save him. Riddle thinks we’ve got nothing. He thinks his sole defector has been taken care of, and he’s going to be cocky. We’re counting on that.”

James gave a stiff nod. “Alright. So keep him from sneaking out, keep him alive.”

“That’s your entire job here,” Crouch said. He turned down another road which led him to a row of old cottages, and he stopped at the second to last one on the lane.

James felt his entire body alight with nerves, which in hindsight was ridiculous considering what he’d faced too often for his job. And yet here he was, nearly shaking as he climbed out of the car, went for the boot to collect their things, and headed for the front door. He took a breath, glanced over at Lily who gave him a careful nod, and just as Crouch unlocked the door and pushed it open, the pair of detectives stepped in.

***

For as anticlimactic as the situation was, James decided he’d feel humiliated about his panic later. For now, he decided a cup of tea and a long sit on what was possibly the world’s most comfortable sofa was in order.

They’d gone in, and James half expected Regulus to attempt to break past them, or fly into some sort of rage when he learnt that Crouch had brought James Potter, of all people, to look after him. In the end, James and Lily had been informed that Regulus was medicated and currently sleeping, and had been informed of their impending arrival for nearly a week now.

“He seemed quite relieved it was you,” Crouch mused as he hovered near the door. He’d just handed off the care package to James, which consisted of cash for their weekly shopping, and the mobile which was programmed so it would only ring four numbers—Crouch, Dumbledore, a contact labelled Emergency, and the Midwife.

James’ stomach twisted at being so far yet so close from the people he cared about, from the people trusted to protect him and Lily, but he was also resolved to see this through, and hopefully get Regulus to safety and take Riddle down in one fell swoop. He was willing to sacrifice a month of his life for something like that, without question.

He was really only disappointed that seeing Regulus again was going to be delayed, and that he was on heavy medication which would dull his response. James didn’t want him to be uncomfortable, but he also wanted to get a read on him, to find out if any of his lingering prejudices remained.

James was no stranger to them, really. Especially at Hogwarts which was very white, and very posh. Your name was down if you could trace your lineage to Buckingham Palace within four generations, if one of your parents had ever won a Bafta, or—like in James’ case—your father managed to create a line of what ended up becoming one of the world’s most popular haircare products, securing your future financial security, and probably several generations after you.

But he’d always felt a bit of a stranger. His parents had come from Sri Lanka ten years before James had even been a consideration, and they’d never felt really welcome. That was made clear when James set foot in the hall of Hogwarts, and although he’d been a charismatic boy who didn’t much care what others thought, it was almost unconscious that he drifted toward the others who didn’t exactly fit in with all the nonsense.

Sirius, of course, who had been born rebellious. Remus, who was only there on scholarship because his mother had been a professor for years before she’d taken ill. And Peter, royal blooded, but distant and awkward, and frightened.

In being apart, they’d grown together, and James became increasingly aware of the state of things—the state of people, their opinions, the growing concern with things like purification—as he tore through sixth form. He’d considered going into politics once or twice, but the Met seemed the better option, especially at King’s when he met Lily and listened to her wax poetic about how she was going to make waves in law enforcement.

He’d never doubted her. He’d been half in love with her the moment he laid eyes on her.

And it had been a rocky start, yes, but there was a part of James who always knew he’d end up here. Or well, perhaps not here, sat in a lounge waiting for Sirius’ brother to wake from his medically induced near coma after being beaten and left for dead but…

With her. Facing the world. Trying to rid England of megalomaniacs like Riddle. It felt right.

And James could only hope Regulus’ reform was real.

Sitting back, he leant his head on the cushion and glanced out the window, hoping Lily would return from her briefing with Crouch at the meeting point in town. They were doing them separate to keep someone with Regulus at all times, and Lily had immediately volunteered to go after seeing how done James was feeling.

It was a nice reprieve, but now he was starting to feel antsy, and he was realising he had a long month—and possibly more—of exactly this. Of waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

***

“James?”

The second Lily had gotten back, she’d gone directly into the room they’d be occupying to have a short lie down. It had only been twenty minutes, and James was just coming out of the loo when he heard her calling.

Slipping into the room, his eyes adjusted to dim of the drawn curtains, and he saw her stretched out on the bed wearing only a t-shirt. His hand went backward reflexively, flicking the lock on the door before he walked to the edge of the bed.

“Hey, babes. Can I get you anything?” he asked quietly.

She snuffled into the pillow, then opened her arms. It was no hardship to crawl into them, kicking his shoes off before sliding up the length of her, letting his hand wander up the hem of her shirt, to the soft, round curve of her waist. He loved everything about her, every inch of skin, every smile, every sharp barb, and every term of endearment that left her mouth. He loved the way her hair was almost as wild as his in mornings, and the way she could never, ever turn down coffee ice cream.

He loved this, too. This sleepy, quiet version of her which was growing an entire person inside of her. His hand slipped down to her lower belly, his fingers teasing at the waistline of her knickers.

She took the offer for what it was, shifting toward him more, lifting her face for the kiss he gave her without hesitation. Her mouth opened under his, as his tongue pressed gently, just inside. His fingers dipped as her thighs spread for him, and it was only at the last second that he remembered they had a houseguest, and he managed to bite off a moan as his fingers brushed through her coarse hair, right into her folds.

She gasped into his mouth as he dipped his fingers inside, then stroked her with her own fluids. As her body began to shake, the need in him grew, hard and heavy between his legs, and soon enough he was struggling out of his clothes, moving between her legs, pressing against her opening as his fingers continued to give her as much pleasure as he could.

“Yes, Jamie, please,” she said, arching her hips a little.

He pushed in, and even after all these years, he lost himself in the feel of her, hot and wet around him as his hips thrust gently into the rhythm he’d learnt over time drove her mad. She clung to his shoulders, sitting halfway up to bury her face and her groans in his neck as his free hand held her hip, keeping her close, keeping his movements shallow.

It didn’t take long before she breathed into his neck, “I’m coming,” and he felt the pulse of it, the hot release, the throbbing.

It drew him over the edge just a few pushes later, and he stilled, his eyes squeezing shut his body going tense, then relaxing down as he eased to the side to keep his weight off her.

“I needed that,” she said, still a little breathless. She pushed a hand up through her fringe, then turned her head to the side to grin at him. “Thank you.”

His eyebrows went up, even as he smiled at her. “Thank me?”

“Well…you know. Thank me too, since I was pretty good there as well.”

“The best,” he replied, and grabbed her chin, kissing her long and slow before pushing up. “I should shower. I want to be…you know. Presentable, when he wakes up.”

Lily bit her lip, but nodded as James pushed up from the bed and went to the wardrobe to rummage through. He went with jogging bottoms and an old t-shirt, and when he looked back at her, she was still frowning.

“What’s wrong?”

She shrugged, lying back against the pillows. “Just…what if us being here makes him miserable? Hardly seems fair, you know? After going through everything he went through. I mean, I read the file—I left it downstairs and you should take a look at it. But it’s horrible, James. One of the worst I’ve seen in ages.”

James quashed down conflicting emotions rising in him like a flood, and shook his head. “Our job right now is to keep him alive, and keep him safe. He’ll get his chance to heal and recover when this is all over.”

“It’s just,” she hesitated, like she was choosing her words carefully. “I know you chose Sirius. That you’ll always choose Sirius, and I know he deserves that. But you’re not going to…you know, be cruel to him. Because of what he did.”

For a moment, he felt insulted, but only for a moment. Because frankly he hadn’t earnt anything but that suspicion. James had a long history of ignoring rules and morality when it came to the people he loved, especially Sirius. He supposed, really, it wasn’t out of line for her to think he’d use this time to get back at Regulus for the pain he’d caused in the past.

But it wasn’t about that. And in a way, Regulus felt like an extension of Sirius—a boy who hadn’t been able to escape the claws his mother had dug into him, and this was a chance now, for him to escape it all. Torturing him over past mistakes wouldn’t do him any favours, and if Sirius was going to get his brother back, James knew being angry wasn’t the way to pave that road.

“I don’t want to hurt him,” he said quietly. “That’s the last thing I want, okay?”

She nodded, her belief in him showing in her gaze as she offered a small smile. But she was tired now, and her breathing was starting to even out, so James slipped out of the room to wash up, and face the rest of the evening.

He’d make tea—the house was stocked for whatever they needed, and maybe if he was lucky, sometime in the night Regulus would wake. If he wasn’t in pain, if he was coherent enough, James would get a chance to speak with him.

He felt good about it, grateful that he’d have a few hours to really prepare.

Unfortunately, the Universe didn’t seem inclined to agree. Just as James swung the door open and stepped into the hall, he collided with another body. And it wasn’t Lily. He stumbled back and his eyes fixed on a pair of stormy-greys, narrowed in suspicion.

After what felt like an eternal minute of staring, Regulus deflated and his voice—hoarse from his injury—sighed out, “Hello, Potter. I didn’t think I’d actually see you again.”