With a frustrated huff, Lily pushed close another compartment of the wall drawer. She was about to start the bothersome and tiring task of standing up with her back screaming murder and her belly making her feel like a small island, when the door of her office opened.
Lily sighed, clenching her teeth.
"I swear to Merlin, Olivia, if it's another reporter from the Prophet-"
She never got to finish her threat, though, because a very familiar voice exclaimed "Lily, what are you doing?" in a very familiar and aggravated voice and suddenly a pair of arms were helping her up from behind her.
Lily didn't protest the cavalier treatment today: crouching down looking for that damned document hadn't been her smartest idea. Lately Harry was moving restlessly and her back was aching all the time. She was lucky Sirius and James hadn't yet realized the extent of her lack of sleep or she would be guilt-tripped in staying at home. With a wince, Lily realized that after what the Prophet had published that morning, maybe being confined at home wouldn't be such a bad idea.
When she was finally standing, the hands supporting her shifted gently down until they rested on her belly and James pressed against her back.
His voice whispered against her ear.
"Are you okay?"
Lily nodded, suddenly overwhelmed by the intimacy of James pressed against her. It wasn't anything she hadn't felt before, but she felt unbalanced and suddenly in need of his strength around her.
With a jolt Lily noticed James wasn't her only visitor. Sirius was standing on her left, halfway from the door of her office. She saw Olivia, her secretary, peering from a corner. After seeing the tableau Lily and her soulmates made, the woman came forward and closed the office door without uttering a word. For the hundredth time that day, Lily thanked Merlin Olivia had accepted the job Imogen Potter, the President of Potter Foundation, had offered her. Lily should thank Imogen as well.
"Lily." Sirius called her softly and Lily focused back on the present situation.
Sirius was frowning and glancing at James behind her. She didn't need to turn to know James would probably be worried as well.
With a deep breath, Lily turned in the circle of her husband's arms, resting her head on his shoulder while with a hand she beckoned Sirius to come closer. Silently, Sirius complied and he took her hand, while James gently tightened his hold around her, mindful as always of her swollen belly.
"What is it?" Sirius asked softly, his eyes full of worry and love.
Lily shook her head and buried her face in James' chest. She felt stupid doing so but she didn't care. She just wanted to stay like this until the world outside disappeared.
A hand started caressing her hair, something Lily loved being done to her, and she incrementally relaxed in James' hold. Then Lily felt Sirius' body at her back and she tilted her neck in invitation.
Without asking or prompting, Sirius kissed her neck lightly.
"We are here." Sirius whispered against her skin and Lily nodded.
She stayed like that for a while, enjoying James' and Sirius' presence and the silence of her office. She knew she couldn't escape saying what had upset her, but she could pretend for a while. Just a little longer.
When her feet started hurting, damned pregnancy, Lily stepped on the side, trying to leave James' arms, but her soulmate didn't let her and she sighed.
"I need to sit down, James." Lily admitted and immediately James let her go.
She could feel both their gazes on her back while she walked slowly towards the chair behind her desk. Her back pain had gotten worse. Lily couldn't remember why she hadn't taken her pregnancy leave yet. Oh yes, she was an independent woman and being pregnant wouldn't restrict her.
When her eyes landed on the newspaper on her desk and its huge headline with a photo of her and James and Sirius at their graduation under it, she felt foolish and she spoke up, while carefully sitting down.
"Gertrude McNair came to see me earlier." Lily admitted, turning around on her chair to face both her husbands. James winced, but Sirius was frowning.
"Whatever for?" Sirius asked and Lily couldn't help glaring at him.
"I blame you!" Lily informed him tartly and when Sirius opened his mouth, expression still gobsmacked, she held up a hand. She would say her piece first. "We had a meeting already set. She wanted to rearrange the schedule of the charity ball at the Ministry and I had no grounds to refuse her. She is the Ministry liaison."
"What happened then?" asked James warily. "It's not the first time you've met with her."
"Oh no, it wasn't. But it was the first time she knew Sirius is my husband."
"Our husband." James corrected him as an afterthought and Lily glared at him as well, while Harry gave her stomach a powerful kick. Lily fought the wave of nausea. Merlin, she loved the idea of becoming a mother but Harry couldn't be born fast enough, and thanks to Sirius, she knew she still had three weeks of waiting and being kicked ahead of her. Sometimes it was horrible to know the future.
"You know what I mean." she hissed, displeased and irritated. Did she have to spell it out? Really?
Sirius frowned even more and crossed his arms in front of himself.
Apparently, she had to spell it out.
"She's been chasing after you since we left Hogwarts, Sirius! How could you not notice it?" she asked, incredulous.
"No, she hasn't."
This time it was James who snorted, sending an exasperated look at his husband.
"Really, Sirius? She practically tried to push you in a closet with her at the last function we attended at the Ministry!" James told him. "Lily had to stop me from setting her on fire."
Sirius gave Lily an incredulous look and Lily chuckled.
"Pregnancy hormones are strange. Any other time I could have beaten James to it... that night I preferred to curse all her hair off. Way more satisfying." she admitted and for a moment she recalled the beauty of seeing Gertrude running around like a headless chicken, trying to hide what had happened from a hundred people.
"I should have let you set her on fire that night." Lily reflected out loud and closed her eyes, leaning against the comfortable leather of her chair. She so wanted to go home now.
"What did she say, Lily?" James tried again, but Lily shook her head. She didn't want to say it out loud. Not because she was afraid what Gertrude had said was true or any nonsense like that, like that harpy had gloated about, but because her husbands didn't need to know. Didn't deserve that kind of vitriol.
"Is is about you being just a convenient brood mare?"
Lily didn't expect those words to leave James' mouth. She flinched before she could curb the movement.
"Oh Lily-" Sirius started, but Lily interrupted him abruptly. She didn't want pity.
"How do you know?" she asked, throat sore. She opened her eyes to see them.
James and Sirius shared a glance and Lily could see the hesitation they shared.
"Tell me!" she demanded.
"Rudolph McNair came to see us." Sirius admitted, coming forward and leaning against her desk, a few centimeters from her legs. His arms were crossed and he was frowning. "Yesterday afternoon." he added.
That didn't make sense.
"But the article came out this morning." she said, confused, glancing at the newspaper to make sure even if she was.
James cleared his throat.
"He probably made an inquire to the Ministry." he explained.
Lily's head whipped to him. "You told me our record was sealed."
Again Sirius and James shared a look full of meaning and Lily was starting to get annoyed.
"The records are sealed," Sirius confirmed. "But the entry can be shared in a particular circumstance."
"What?" Lily asked when Sirius' silence lasted too long. "What circumstance?"
James picked up Sirius' end of conversation.
"McNair must have requested Sirius' records to check there was no previous suit."
"Suit? What in Merlin's name are you talking about?"
"I'm sorry, Lily," Sirius interjected. "I didn't realize Gertrude's interest was so strong."
Lily almost snorted. Sirius could be so dense, sometimes. It was both endearing and exasperating.
"Courting suits are a serious matter for purebloods," James explained. "In the past, disrespecting the courtship of another wizard could lead to a blood feud, so the Ministry created an office to keep track of these things. When a wizard is interested in a period of courtship, he asks the office whether the other party is already engaged in a period of courtship. McNair must have asked for Sirius and the office must have responded he was already married."
Lily sighed and closed her eyes for a moment, overwhelmed again by her tiredness. Harry was letting her enjoy a moment of peace, fortunately, but she felt run to the ground.
"And they gave him our names?"
"It's a matter of respect."
Lily chuckled bitterly.
"There wasn't much respect in what Gertrude called me."
Sirius flinched. James frowned and looked at the other man.
"We let him off too easily, Sirius."
Sirius nodded and sighed.
"Yes, you are right. We will write him a formal complaint as soon as we get home."
"Stop, stop right there!" exclaimed Lily, out of her depth. "What are you talking about now?"
Sirius took her hand in his and caressed her fingers.
"Both he and Gertrude offended you, Lils." he explained. "You're the Lady of both our Houses. We can't let this slide."
Lily nodded, then bit her lower lip, when something occurred to her.
"What?" James asked her coming closer.
Once in front of her, James knelt down and put his hands on her belly, magic swirling gently against her tight skin. Harry moved then, sensing his father near.
"She didn't say anything most people aren't thinking, you know?" Lily admitted in a rush of words. And that was what had bothered her, reading the article in the Prophet. Not that her personal life, her marriage, had become first page news, but the subtle speculation on why the Patriarch of the Most Ancient and Noble Family and the Heir of another Noble House had chosen to marry her as well, a simple Muggleborn with no Noble blood at all. Oh yes, she was quite bright, but still not at their level. What would they marry her as well if not to get the heirs they needed?
A brood mare indeed.
Lily hadn't noticed a tear had escaped until James' hand caressed it away, before cupping her face. His hazel eyes bore into her.
"You don't believe that crap. So what is this about?"
Another tear escaped her eye, but she was the one to catch it before clearing her throat.
"I don't-" Lily said, before shaking her head. "I don't know. The paper was a shock, but her viciousness... she caught me off guard, I guess, I don't... I just want to go home."
Sirius squeezed her hand and she glanced at him. His eyes were full of understanding. Of her two husbands, Sirius was the one to understand the need to go home when life overwhelmed you with no clear reason. James liked to dissect, to understand, but sometimes there was no logical reason for being sad. It just was and you had to deal with it.
This time James didn't try to talk it out.
"Of course." he said and got up, offering her his hand.
Lily took it and she let herself be pulled up and embraced. She exhaled a breath and Sirius let go of her other hand.
Before Lily could protest, his voice reassured her.
"I'm going to tell Olivia you're going home early."
"Tell her I'm going on maternity leave." Lily added from against James' chest.
James kissed the top of her head and they waited until Sirius came back into the room.
"Come on, husband and wife," Sirius called. "Home is waiting."
"I want coconut ice-cream." Lily said and complete silence was her only response for a full minute.
"Coconut ice-cream coming up." Sirius promised.
"And Rudolph McNair's head on a spike." she added.
James chuckled and his laugh reverberated against her cheek. It was lovely.
"That can be arranged." James conceded. "I'm sure his apology will leave a lot to be desired.”
"That's for sure." Sirius agreed. "And we could tell Gertrude we're a triad of soulmates and seeing her head explode. That would be a nice bonus."
Lily, despite herself, snorted. It was a nice bonus, indeed, but...
"As much as I'd like that, I don't want that kind of attention on us. Not with Harry about to be born."
A hand caressed her back and Lily turned her head to look up at Sirius.
"You're right of course. It's an unnecessary risk." Sirius said, grimacing.
"I'm not worried." she reassured him. Harry was going to have the fiercest and most powerful fathers to protect him, after all. And that was without considering his grandparents and his uncles, both by blood and by choice. "I just don't want the added pressure. And I won't laid bare other pieces of my life because of that harpy!" she added, incensed.
James and Sirius both smiled at her.
"This is the Lily we both love and adore." James said proudly and, before she could say something scathing, he pulled away and he threw powder in the hearth of her office.
"Potter Summer House!" he exclaimed and green light flashed. "Now, come on, real coconut ice-cream awaits no wizard. Or witch!" he said and offered his hand.
Lily smiled, other tears threatening to escape, out of joy this time. With a nod and with Sirius's hand in hers, she took James' hand and they stepped through.