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A Love at Stake

Chapter Text

July 30, 1997

Lily Potter opened her very tired eyes against the sunlight streaming through her windows. She stretched and felt the crumpled sheets against her skin. Suddenly, her heart sank when she remembered that today was the dreaded day for her to report in front of a few chosen, but very important, Ministry officials. As a highly valued Auror in the Ministry of Magic, she had been spending a lot of time working and coming home so late in the evening, an inexcusable routine that became the norm.

She squinted, sat up, craned her neck a bit, and gazed hopefully at the clock hanging on the wall.

"Six." Sighing, she closed her eyes and opened them slowly. 'Oh, James, give me enough strength today...,' she thought.

Lily's husband, James Potter, died fifteen years ago from the hands of You-Know-Who. It was a terrible fate that brought so much misery and fear to Lily, causing her to be distant, unaffectionate, and driven to overwork.

Because of this, Lily and her son Harry moved to an apartment in London. She believed that getting a place near her work would make them feel secured and more protected, even though Albus Dumbledore insisted otherwise. Not many of Lily's friends from the Order of the Phoenix found this abrupt decision the right thing to do as well, but they ended up, somehow reluctantly, agreeing that maybe Lily had her own reasons for not going back to Godric's Hollow. Because as it turned out, the death of James tormented Lily far worse than being hit by a Cruciatus curse. Forgetting it would be a good way to go.

So, fifteen years later, Harry Potter could be seen spending his summer in London with his mother, a life he thought was normal, as he didn't have the slightest idea of the horror that took place many years ago. Lily was determined not to divulge any information that could lead back to James being dead. Harry knew, of course, how his father died, but was only told in a very short and simple explanation. "A certain dark wizard killed your father," Lily had told him rather unwillingly. She never wanted to talk about James, so Harry had dropped the subject.

It was one in the morning, and Harry had waited until now before writing to his two best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. He told them his unhappy and irksome life when he came home about a month ago, and how he hated seeing his mother very worked up, not having long conversations with him, and if she had the time, she would simply say how displeased she was of Harry's attitude and behavior as he grew up, blaming mostly the people Harry was in contact with in school other than herself.

'Do you reckon my mum loves me?' Harry wrote a hundred times already from his previous letters to Ron and Hermione, and it had always been a hundred times that they answered back a "yes".

He twirled his quill, thinking of what to write next, when suddenly the clock chimed on his bedside table, disrupting his thoughts.

'Six o'clock? Did I really spend that much time writing?' he asked himself. Shrugging, he stood up, signed his name on the letter and set it aside, thinking about sending it later.

There was a knock on his door and a weary-looking Lily Potter peered inside. "I see you're up. Can you make breakfast for me, please? I still need to prepare for work." And she closed the door without waiting for an answer.

Harry blinked, trying to register what she said.

Ten minutes later, he had on a loose gray sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants. He didn't bother combing his hair, and went hurriedly out of his room to make breakfast, not realizing that his mother was standing right outside of his door.

He crashed into her, causing what Lily was supposed to be carrying very carefully to topple over, littering the floor, papers everywhere.

"HARRY!" shrieked Lily. Standing slowly, she massaged her aching buttocks while looking furiously at her son.

"What do you think you're doing?!" she said angrily. "Are you even looking where you're going?! Now look-" She pointed at the complete mess. "Look at what you've done!"

Harry tried to open his mouth, but nothing came out.

"Clean this up!" ordered Lily after a few quiet minutes. "And I want them arranged in order!"

"Mum, I'm very sor-"

"Now!" yelled Lily, and she stalked off, slamming the bedroom door shut behind her.

Harry never understood why his mother treated him like a nuisance. Harry was forced to live and behave according to what his mother wanted. This led to many angry rows between Lily and some of Harry's professors at Hogwarts when she found out that Harry wasn't doing very well in some of his classes. Lily then proceeded to take her anger even more at Harry, for not studying and learning as much as she'd want him to, believing that that was the only way for Harry to repay all the hard work she was doing at the Ministry and for keeping him safe and alive all these years.

Harry was determined, of course, to prove himself well after that incident.

Each year at school, he would study very hard, even pushing his limits by skipping meals and sleep just to get the top grade. He eventually did and it earned him a lot of nods from his professors and a pat on the back from his friends. Even Hermione, who, in no doubt, could snatch the top marks for being the brightest witch, was truly impressed by Harry's sudden interest in school academics.

But regardless of how much improvement he showed in school, Lily was never satisfied.

When Harry arrived home for the summer, he was forced to do the chores, clean the house, and study a few more in advance before another term would start in September. But when he refused the first day back home, his mother went on and on and on, yakking about every single thing he did wrong, until he eventually gave up and did what he was told.

Harry stared at the door, sighing.

It took him almost an hour to arrange the papers in proper order.

Careful to not let the papers slip out of his hands, Harry cautiously knocked on his mother's bedroom. He heard footsteps, but she didn't open the door.

Very slowly, he turned the knob. There was a commotion inside. Lily was rushing around and throwing things onto her bed, where a bag stood open. She was wearing a dark blue robe. Lily stopped on her tracks when she noticed Harry.

"Are you done?" she asked while holding her cloak. "Did you arrange them properly?"

Harry nodded.

"Good," said Lily. "Place them on the bed."

Harry hurried to follow.

"I don't have much time and I need to dash," said Lily, sighing. "I can't believe they changed the time to seven-thirty."

Harry checked the clock; it was already fifteen minutes past seven.

"But you haven't eaten anything yet. Surely the Ministry will understand."

"They will not," she said simply. "But, no matter. I'm not hungry anymore." She wouldn't meet his gaze.

There was a short awkward silence.

Harry bowed his head. He felt guilty and embarrassed. "I'm really sorry about what happened earlier."

"No need to apologize," said Lily while flicking through the pages of her report and frowning slightly.

"But it's my fault, if only I slowed down a little bit –"

"I said, no need to apologize!" Lily looked at him intently. "It's done! Now, if you don't have anything important to say, please leave my room." And she turned her back on Harry.

Harry sighed indignantly. He couldn't move. He was somehow used to this kind of treatment, but anytime this happened, he still couldn't suppress the strong feeling of discomfort. He looked at his mother one last time, and then left the room silently.

When Lily heard the door closed, she burst into tears. She hated herself for doing it. She deeply regretted it. But how else was she going to act in front of her son if the one thing that made her life miserable was him?

Lily went to look at her reflection in the mirror. She certainly looked different. She could see she had lost weight, her face sallow, and her shoulder blades protruded. Her hair hung limply and was dull. She looked away, not wanting to see any more of the gloomy look on her face.

She fastened her cloak and swung her bag around her shoulder, ready to leave.

Harry was preparing breakfast when Lily appeared in the kitchen unnoticed. She observed Harry for a moment, realizing how much he looked like James. His stature, his ruffled hair… she would do anything just to have James back again. If only…

"Harry –"

"Ow!" Harry accidentally cut his finger in surprise, the knife falling onto the floor in a clatter. He hadn't expected his mother to call him.

Lily rushed towards her son. "Harry, are you all right?"

"I'm fine," said Harry immediately, hiding his hand behind his back. "It's nothing."

"Show me your hand."

Trembling, Harry held out his hand. It was bleeding nonstop.

"You call this nothing?" Lily asked incredulously. She grabbed her wand from her pocket and cast a healing charm.

"Mum?"

"Hmm?"

"Remember when Ron invited us to go to the Burrow for my birthday tomorrow and –" Harry hesitated, eyeing his mother nervously. "And have me stay there for the remainder of the summer…"

Lily looked at his son, her eyebrows furrowed slightly. "Harry, I don't think –"

"But I was thinking," Harry cut her off, looking desperate, "that after your big meeting, it would be a perfect time to step back, relax… and go to the Burrow."

Lily sighed, "Harry…"

"I really want you to go to the Burrow for my birthday tomorrow, mum," Harry pleaded. "You could meet everyone."

Lily shook her head.

"You're not coming…," said Harry, lowering his head, confirming his thoughts.

With a long deep breath, Lily said, "I tried to free things up, but you know… you know how hectic work's been."

Harry's ears were ringing. He had really been looking forward for tomorrow and now that feeling was gone.

"I'm truly sorry," said Lily.

Harry looked at her dejectedly. "That's okay," he muttered, walking away.

Somehow the gloomy weather was sort of in accordance with Harry's mood when he went outside the apartment. Lily followed him out, though not to talk more, which Harry kind of wish she would after what happened.

The thing with Lily, she would only show care or affection that lasted not much more than five minutes, whatever their conversation was, now it was long forgotten. Not that she didn't care, she just didn't want to feel it even more than she could handle.

"I'll be home at eight tonight," Lily told him. "We received a big case that needs special attention. It's a nightmare, really."

"Eight?" Harry could not believe what he's hearing. "You're kidding, right?"

"Kidding? Of course not," said Lily. "Not that I'm aware of."

Harry frowned. "But mum, what about my assembly?"

Lily raised her eyebrows. "Assembly? What assembly?"

"The Recognition Assembly, to discuss the standings of their students at Hogwarts. The one that I've worked hard for the whole year. Ring a bell?" Harry said, exasperated. He stared at her skeptically.

Lily thought for a moment then said, "Ah, the Recognition Assembly. Yes, I didn't forget that. And that's –"

"Tonight," Harry finished her words. "Seven o'clock."

"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry," said Lily miserably. "I shouldn't have said that." She put her hand in her head. "I'm too concentrated on my report and…" She looked at Harry; disappointment obviously visible in his eyes even though he tried to hide it. "I'll try to be there, Harry."

Harry didn't speak for a moment.

"Harry?"

"Good luck on your report, mum." Harry smiled a bit. "You'll do great." And he kissed her on the cheek.

Lily smiled. "See you later."

Harry nodded briefly, a saddened look still evident on his face as he watched his mother walk across the street.

He turned and collided with a passerby holding a morning coffee that spilled all over the front of Harry's shirt.

"I'm so sorry!" said the man wearing a black hoodie. Lily heard and turned quickly.

"Harry!" Lily rushed back, casting a dark look at the man walking away in the opposite direction.

"I'm fine, mum. Don't worry about it," Harry assured her. "You don't want to be late."

"After I've cast the cleaning spell, I'll leave." Lily pointed her wand at Harry's shirt and said, "Tergeo!"

"Thanks."

"I'll see you tonight."

"Yeah." Harry smiled and waved goodbye at Lily's retreating form.

Chapter Text

A little disheveled, Lily emerged into the fireplace on the left side of the Atrium. Flashing oneself down the Ministry toilet wasn’t an ideal way of coming to work when it comes to Lily. She hated it.

Arthur Weasley, a close friend of Lily, stood smiling in front her and said, "You really should get used to it by now, Lily. It looks as though you've fought a dozen of Death Eaters.”

Lily rolled her eyes, also smiling. “If only the telephone booth is near my house then I wouldn’t have to use that disgusting toilet to get in. It’s gross!” she said, blowing a few hair strands away from her face.

“You wouldn't mind carrying these papers for me, would you?" she asked. "I'm afraid they're going to slip in my hands at any moment."

"Woah.” Arthur immediately grabbed the papers. “How important is the meeting that you actually have to carry these with you?”

"Very." said Lily, stretching her arms from side to side.

"So, how's Harry?" asked Arthur, changing the subject while they wait for the lifts to come.

Lily's smile faded. "I made his morning miserable.”

"Not again, Lily." Arthur stared at her. "Why? What happened?"

The lift descended in front of Arthur and Lily and they moved inside it. The grilles slid shut with a crash and the lift ascended slowly.

"I can't seem to control my temper." said Lily, regret unmistakable in her voice. "Just this morning, I yelled at him and told him that I'll be home at eight because we just received a big case and –“

"But there will be an assembly tonight at Hogwarts!" Arthur said quickly.

"I know." Lily told him miserably. "Harry reminded me about it.”

"It's alright, Lily." said Arthur softly. "I was also being reminded by my wife, Molly. She thinks I don't have time with the kids anymore. Just don't forget the assembly again later, okay?"

Lily nodded and made a small smile.

“You do know that Harry performed really well this year in school, right?” Arthur asked, hoping it would lighten Lily’s mood a bit more.

“I am aware.” said Lily. There was a short pause. “I was actually planning on buying him a present. What about that best-selling book, Quidditch Teams of Britain and Ireland?”

“Harry already got one.”

“Huh?”

“The Quidditch Teams of Britain and Ireland book?” Arthur repeated. “He was reading it the last time he was here. He went on and on about how much he loved it.”

“Really? Where was I?” asked Lily, surprised.

“Right next to him.”

Arthur gazed at Lily and an awkward silence followed.

They reached level two of the Auror Headquarters. The lift doors opened and they stepped out, looking around.

"I want to open up a topic about altering destiny.” Lily started, trying to ease the awkwardness.

"Altering destiny?” Arthur raised his eyebrows. "Do you believe that?”

"Yeah, of course I do. It's only a matter of changing the events, you know."

"Like time-turners?"

"Exactly!" said Lily. "But there's more into it that I want to find out, like in the next fifty years –“

"Fifty years? But people are still going to die," said Arthur, smirking. "You know, that is out of your control, the only things you can control are your own choices.”

"Okay," said Lily. "But that would be the other point of view. I really don't have time to debate destiny. I just want to find out if there's more into it.”

"I see," said Arthur. "So you've done a lot of research –“

"A lot" said Lily earnestly. "And –“

"And that's the reason why you're always coming home late, with no dinner, and looking tired the next day when you go to work. Is that right?"

“Yes, but what –“ Lily stared at him for a moment, trying to sink in what Arthur told her. “How did you know?" asked Lily, a little taken aback.

"Well, let's just say I have children who knows your son very well, with Ron as Harry's best friend and all that, well, I hope you know what I mean." Arthur said, his eyes darted towards her.

"You mean, Harry's telling Ron about me?" asked Lily quite sternly.

"Don't take it as something bad though,” Arthur said immediately. "Ron's been receiving letters from your son and I bet you anything, Hermione's receiving as well."

"Hermione?"

"Harry's other best friend." Arthur reminded her. "Anyway, Ron told me everything when I noticed Harry's letters and he seemed worried. Molly doesn't know because my son made me swear not to tell.” Arthur stared at her straight in her eyes and added, "Harry loves you so much. He may not have the guts to say it, but his letters proves it. Give him all the love he needs.”

Lily frowned as though Arthur's words offended her. "I do love him. And I don't think anybody, aside from me and my son, should know what's going on between our private lives. And thank you for telling me this. I think I'll have a word with Harry later.”

"I know that, Lily." said Arthur, starting to worry. "We're just concerned, but please don't start shouting at Harry again, he's just afraid to tell you all this."

"Who said I'm going to shout at him? He should know better than that! Being afraid will not do him any good. He should be brave like his father after risking his life for him!” said Lily, annoyed.

"Harry's brave and you're actually blaming him for what happened to James?" asked Arthur incredulously.

Lily just shrugged. She looked at her watch that said she still have five minutes to prepare.

"I need to go now, Arthur." Lily took the papers. "Catch you up later." And she strode off to her office while rummaging the bag for her eyeglasses.

"Good luck and don't forget tonight at Hogwarts!" Arthur reminded her for the last time.

Lily just waved a hand while holding her eyeglasses and from the moment she let her hand down, it accidentally hit a solid wall, causing her eyeglasses to crack.

Argh! Unbelievable! She said to herself. Can't I have a moment of peace? Damn it! She added while cursing her way to the Auror's office.

Meanwhile, Harry ate his breakfast slowly while staring blankly on the empty chair opposite him, his toast hanging between his hand and his mouth, while his other hand twirls the fork with his fingers.

It was always like this, eating alone. Despite his mother’s absences during mealtimes even after her Auror raids, Harry would still make dinner, and most of the time he would find, the next day, the food he prepared for her was barely eaten and still on the table. He’s not complaining though. He knew his mother was constantly tired. Being an Auror can be very demanding and it takes courage, wit and guile. Not many have the stomach for it.

Morning always found Harry thinking about the day ahead. He generally begins the day doing the chores, cleaning the house, and not to mention, he still have the whole afternoon to spare before setting off to Hogwarts for their usual Recognition Assembly. And as though someone pinched him hard on his side, he ate his food fast, did the chores, and bolted upstairs to his bedroom.

He walked across his room, let Hedwig out of her cage where she soared around the ceiling, while Harry prepared his letters, folded it, tied it on Hedwig's leg and opened the window. He stroked Hedwig's feathers for the last time and let her fly out to the open.

"Safe flight, Hedwig.” He whispered as he scanned the morning sky where a tiny dot of Hedwig could be seen.

He sat silently in his bed, pulled open his bedside drawer where his school books, quills, and parchments lay undisturbed. But apart from those things, Harry grabbed a leather notebook and a quill and started flicking through the pages until he reached the part where a long poem was written but very messy-looking.

Looking at it, it's as though the writer was having difficulty using the right words to fit what he or she was trying to convey. There were many scratches. Here and there, words were crossed out and another word scrawled next to it. Lines and arrows crisscrossed in every direction. Clearly, the reader won't be able to understand the meaning of it all.

Harry stared at it for a moment and began writing a few lines.

With stream in my eyes, I kneeled and look above

He paused, thinking hard, and then dipped his quill on the ink bottle and slowly he wrote, with a small smile on his face, the last and final words of his poem.

Seeing Harry's satisfied look, he scribbled, A Mother's Love on the title page. Deciding to rewrite the poem later, he set the notebook in his desk, and started tidying his bedroom.

By the time he finished cleaning, his clock chimed again, telling him that it's already half past eight.

He made his way out of his room and proceeded to the next room, his mother's room. He opened the door slowly and stepped inside.

As far as Harry is concerned, the room has many pictures. Each of which has Harry's dad in it, James Potter, smiling and waving. There's one picture where Lily was carrying the baby Harry in her arms, cuddling him, while James attempted to do funny faces and jumping up and down to surprise Harry behind his back. The almost sixteen-year-old Harry stared at it, smiling, and a look of longing to have his dad again at home is very visible on his face.

Harry always felt comfortable when he’s inside this room, he felt that his dad was alive and always having fun. But Harry didn't ponder on to these thoughts anymore than he wanted; he let out a sigh of despair and continued on his routines.

There wasn't much to clean up anyway, knowing that the room was always neat and clean, but Harry, having used to doing all the tasks in any way he can, scanned the room skeptically for any signs of unnecessary objects that needed cleaning until he sees the bed where a dark blue folder lay at the foot of it.

Frowning, Harry picked up the folder. Scrawled across it in a slanting writing was Ministry Report, and then below it in small letters, it says Drafts.

Harry scowled at it at first but a huge realization hit him. His eyes went wide, panic coursed through him. Oh no... He said to himself. This can't have been forgotten!

Without bothering to change his clothes and without bothering to think twice, Harry went hurriedly out of the room and sprinted downstairs until he reached the fireplace.

Even though Flooing wasn’t his favorite way of traveling, he scooped a handful of Floo powder on the flowerpot, stepped up to the fire, threw the powder into the flames, and he vanished.

The usual feeling when traveling by Floo made Harry nauseated, and spinning very fast made his head ache. Then finally, he fell onto the cold stone, stood up and looked around quickly.

Trying to stay calm, he wondered what to do because people began noticing his sudden appearance and some started pointing and whispering.

"That's rude you know." Nymphadora Tonks, an Auror and Harry's friend, tapped lightly the arm of a young boy who was obviously been whispering and pointing his finger at Harry. The boy jumped in surprise and ran out in the opposite direction.

Tonks, who had a pale heart-shaped face, dark twinkling eyes, and a short blonde hair, walked in front of Harry and said,

"Wotcher, Harry!"

"Tonks," said Harry, stepping out onto the fireplace, relieved to see someone familiar.

Minding their own business, witches and wizards began to take off and the usual memos zoomed past them as they entered the lift.

"You're not in trouble, are you?" asked Tonks as she eyed Harry warily.

"No." said Harry, and then asked quickly. "Have you seen my mum?"

"Oh, I haven't seen her yet, why?"

"She has a meeting today and she forgot to bring this with her." said Harry, showing Tonks the folder.

"Meeting?" Tonks asked, thinking hard. "Oh, yes, there's a meeting going on."

"Can you tell me where?"

"Follow me," said Tonks, walking to the lift. "I'll lead you to it."

"Thanks." said Harry, tailing behind Tonks as they entered the now seemingly full lift.

Tonks was looking at him interestedly, and then asked, "Have you been doing something messy, Harry?"

Harry looked at her then examined his reflection in front of him. "Oh," he brushed off the dirt. "I was cleaning the house and I never thought to clean up myself when I found the folder."

Tonks smiled at him.

They heard a woman's voice saying, "Level two, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, including the Improper Use of Magic Office, Auror Headquarters, and Wizengamot Administration Services."

"Here we are, Harry." said Tonks, and they went out of the lift into a corridor lined with doors.

They turned a corner, walked through a pair of heavy oak doors and emerged in a cluttered, open area divided into cubicles; the Auror Headquarters.

Harry had been here before but Tonks beckoned him to follow her through a second set of oak doors, which led to another passage.

They stopped beside a glass door where a grim-looking man sat, reading a newspaper.

"I'll leave you here, Harry." Tonks told him. "I believe that's Lily." She pointed at the glass door where Lily is indeed standing in the middle of all the Ministry officials, her back facing the door. "See you later, Harry."

Harry nodded and said thank you before Tonks left.

Harry's heart was hammering fast. He walked closed to the grim-looking man and said, "Good morning, sir."

The man set down the newspaper and said in a hoarse voice, "Morning, Mr. Potter." and began to examine Harry's appearance.

Harry was expecting the man to say something after he was greeted but nothing came; the man just looked at him as though bored. So Harry pressed on.

"Excuse me, sir. Could you, um… take this folder in the conference room for me?" Harry held out the folder in front of him. "My mu – Lily Potter is expecting it."

Not taking the folder, the man raised his eyebrows and made a small grin. He said, "I'm sorry but that's against headquarters' policy."

"But –" Harry didn't know what to say. "But she could lose her job." He said quickly.

"Oh, that's tragic," said the man sarcastically, who smiled widely and added, "But not my problem." Then the man continued reading the newspaper as though nothing had happened.

Harry was taken aback.

You're nasty just like Snape… he said to himself while eyeing the man coolly. Then, he looked back on the glass door, oh no… she's looking for something over her file case –

And hurriedly, Harry opened the door, took a deep breath and went inside.

The atmosphere inside the conference room changed abruptly when they saw a boy entered the room all of a sudden, but Lily was too busy looking inside her file case that she didn't notice the changes.

Harry stood on the spot, eyeing the crowd nervously and said, "Excuse me for interrupting,"

Hearing the familiar voice, Lily stood frozen; eyes went wide as though she's seeing a ghost.

"Um… this is for you," said Harry, handing the folder to her mother.

Very slowly, Lily turned around.

Then, Harry continued, "I just thought that you might need this folder that you –" Harry saw, to his horror, that Lily was holding the same folder in her hand after looking inside her file case. "– already have…" and Harry's voice tailing away feebly.

Oh great… Harry told himself. This is pretty unexpected – nightmare!

Lily looked startled. She gave Harry a "what-the-hell-are-you-doing?" look over her shoulder.

Harry took a step back, eyed the Ministry officials tensely and said, sounding slightly nervous, "Er, false alarm… terribly sorry. I… I just thought you – I mean, she –" Harry referred to her Lily, who now looked as though she's going to faint at any moment. "– have anything she needed, because…" Harry was thinking fast on what to say next. "… she worked so hard in it, I mean, really dedicated –" Lily cast him a cold stare but Harry continued. "This is my fault. I'm really sorry for the interruption." And Harry immediately left the room.

There was a moment silence, and then Lily took a deep breath, faced the crowd once again and said, "So, um… move on, shall we?"

Harry looked very troubled when he left the conference room that he didn't exactly pay any attention to where he was going.

He turned a corner and collided into someone with bushy brown hair.

"Hermione?" Harry panted, getting to his feet.

The girl turned around, only she wasn't Hermione but –

"Tonks!"

"Harry!" Tonks straightened up. "What's up?"

"I thought you were Hermione."

"Well, I only got her hair but not her brains," said Tonks with a chuckle.

"But that looks nice, though." Harry told her. "You're doing great."

"Thanks," said Tonks. She noticed Harry's sudden gloomy look.

"What's with the face?"

Harry raised the folder.

"Oh," said Tonks, getting the point.

"My mum already have this folder," said Harry. "I-never-want-to-see-it-again." He gritted his teeth.

Harry and Tonks were silent for a moment, and then Harry spoke in a mocking voice, "I think that went well, the meeting."

"Did it?"

"Yeah," said Harry, sounding ridiculous. "The glaring, the awkwardness, the cold stare from my mum. Just what I've been hoping for."

"That's quite alright. Don't worry about it." Tonks assured him.

"I think I talked too much," Harry told her.

"You did?" said Tonks incredulously.

Harry nodded.

"Well," Tonks patted him on his shoulder. "Don't let your mind become cluttered with worry, Harry. It leaves less room for the good stuff." said Tonks brightly and winking at him.

Chapter Text

Harry came home feeling slightly put out, the cold stare from his mother still fresh in his memory. How could I be so stupid…

A loud hoot brought Harry back from his stupor. He glanced up and saw a tiny owl swooped down the window, “Pigwidgeon!” Harry exclaimed. The owl fluttered excitedly around the light fixtures on the ceiling, a parcel tied to his leg. “Come down here!”

Harry opened the letter.

Harry,

This is urgent. Could you meet me at Diagon Alley right now? I’m at the joke shop, you know, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes? I’m stuck here with Fred and George. They reckon I should be a good brother and help them sort out some products. They said they’ll pay me but who knows if that’s true. Would you mind coming over?

P.S. Hedwig won’t leave so I used Pig instead; he got so excited he flew right away even before I tied the letter. Stupid little feathery git!

Ron

Harry laughed. He can fully imagine Ron chasing and wrestling with his owl and having the best time of his life with his brothers.

Harry went to his room, laid the letter on the table and took a shower. It didn’t take him long to get dressed. He’s excited to finally see the joke shop. Ron kept nagging him to visit ever since it opened and now’s the best time to do it.


Lily sat on her chair in her office two hours later looking rather disappointed. She cast one angry stare at her report and shoved it inside the drawer, never wanting to see it again.

A knock at the door came and Arthur peeked his head in. He smiled when he saw Lily.

“Did you get the approval, then?” Arthur asked excitedly.

Lily scowled at him. “Almost.” Then added, “I can’t believe Harry pulled that stunt right after he –“

“Harry? He was here?” Arthur looked confused.

“Yes! At the meeting!” Lily yelled in exasperation. “He spent all morning being peeved at me for not-being-in-the-moment or some such bollocks…” Lily took a deep breath. Stress getting into her.

“But, what happened at the meeting? Why was he there?”

Lily closed her eyes and said, “Never mind.” She doesn’t want to relive it again.

“What are you doing here anyway, Arthur? Surely you didn’t come just to ask about my meeting?” she asked, massaging her temples.

“Well, it’s about the silver dagger with rune markings on it that we were talking about yesterday,” said Arthur, as he sat down across from Lily. “I did some research and, apparently, it isn’t just a regular kitchen knife. It is imbued with a very dark and powerful enchantment. One stab can easily kill you. No healing charm, potion, or whatsoever can undo the damage.”

Lily’s eyes were wide open.

“And I think I know a place where you might find clues.” Arthur informed her. “Here, let me write it down for you.“ Arthur seized a paper and dipped a quill on the ink bottle but accidentally knocking it over. “Blimey!” he gasped. “Sorry about that.” he said apologetically, looking over at Lily who sighed.

“This is why I prefer self-inking quills.”


“I told you this place is awesome.” Ron was grinning, looking around the joke shop, and showing Harry a bit of everything. It was packed with customers, so Ron and Harry had to weave their way through.

They’ve been helping out the twins restock the shelves. Most of the products were gone within minutes.

“Thanks for coming out here and helping me out, Harry.” said Ron appreciatively while carefully placing a bunch of Skiving Snackboxes on the shelves.

“Yeah. We do agree.” said Fred from behind them, attempting to hold a weird-looking black horn-type object.

“You’re a lifesaver.” said George.

Harry smiled and said, “I am actually impressed. This is amazing!”

The twins beamed at him and swept off to accommodate some more customers coming in.

Harry picked up a few more boxes labeled with different names and started stocking them on a shelf according to each one when Ron tapped Harry on the shoulder, gesturing him to look out the window, “Is that your mum, Harry?”

Harry looked over, frowning.

Lily Potter was indeed walking outside the shops.

“Wait, what’s she doing in Diagon Alley?” asked Ron.

Lily stopped in front of Quality Quidditch Supplies and went inside.

Ron’s eyes widened, “I bet you anything she’s getting you a present for your birthday, Harry. I knew she would!” he said, beaming. “And you’re top of class too!” he exclaimed proudly.

Harry didn’t say anything. He knew Ron was just bluffing but he don’t really expect his mother to actually buy him a present.

Lily knew that Harry loves Quidditch. She’s seen him fly naturally on a broomstick like James Potter but she never acknowledged it in front of Harry nor praised him for that matter.

Harry glanced outside again, unsure of what to feel but his heart was beating fast. Could this really be what he thinks it is? A surprise from his mother? Nevertheless, Harry’s heart was fluttering and he smiled widely.


People in the office started packing and leaving for the night. Lily checked the time; it was six o’ clock. She stood up, took long calm breaths, and left her office. She was obviously the only one in the Auror’s Headquarters. She headed for the lifts.

A very old man wearing a worn out black suit and a fedora greeted her with a subtle smile as Lily stepped inside the lift. She nodded and smiled back.

“I don’t mean to pry, but there seems to be something that’s weighing on your mind.”The old man asked calmly as the lift descended slowly.

Taken aback, Lily replied, “What makes you say that?”

The old man chuckled. “At my age, I could tell.”

“Hmm… I don’t want to talk about it.” Lily said dismissively.

“I see. The thing will just probably fix itself.” He said quietly, his eyes meeting hers.

Lily felt a pang of guilt. She’s aware that she wasn’t really making good attempts in dealing with Harry. But there’s something about this old man’s sense of calmness that she felt an urge to open up. It was odd but it’s worth a try.

“Well...” Lily took a deep breath. “I can’t seem to make my son happy.” She said anxiously. “How can you love someone so much and not know how… how to love them?”

“So, you do love him?”

“Yes,” said Lily. “Very much.”

“You know that’s all that matters.” said the old man simply.

“He’s going away tomorrow for a month and he wants me to go with him.”

“What if he never came back?” he asked, looking over to Lily.

Lily glared at him. “What sort of question is that?”

“Well… go on, picture it.” The old man moved his hand in the air. “You waved goodbye at your son and you never see him again. Could you live with that?”

Lily thought about it momentarily. She never wondered until now how painful it was to lose someone you love; to lose Harry. After the death of James, she had dismissed all feelings that would remind her of pain and suffering.

“No…” she said with a sigh. “No, I couldn’t.”

“Well, you know what to do.” The old man said softly. “Appreciate him and what you have. Just love him.” He then gave her a comforting smile before the lift slowed to a halt.


As the night progressed, Harry nervously waited for his mother to come to Hogwarts. Along with his other housemates, he was dressed in his usual Gryffindor uniform for the Recognition Assembly.

Ron and Hermione’s parents arrived early, all the while chatting together in the Great Hall where the assembly was going to be held.

Ron stayed outside with Harry in the Entrance hall, keen not to stay close with his parents after hearing that he’s got a low mark in Divination and Potions.

“You know,” Harry started, his eyes looking up in the night sky. “If my mum bought me a present and if she’s coming with me tomorrow and maybe stay at the Burrow for even just a few days… then that’s really sweet.” He paused. “I mean maybe she’s coming around.” Harry said, looking hopeful at Ron.

Ron nodded and smiled. “I hope so, you deserve it.”

Harry was so relieved to see Lily emerged in the Entrance hall a few minutes before the assembly had started. They were the last ones to enter the Great Hall, Ron tailing behind them.

Mrs. Weasley kept shooting Lily a hard look, wondering why it took her that long to come to Hogwarts. But Lily remained unperturbed, eyes locked instead to Albus Dumbledore as he gave his welcoming speech.

The assembly didn’t take long. As a finale, Harry was awarded last as being the top of the whole student body; much to Hermione’s dismay for only being second, but still congratulated Harry for doing a job well done, whilst Ron struggled to keep his face hidden as he casted furtive glances in his parents’ direction.

“Congratulations, Harry.” said Lily.

“Thanks mum.”

“Ready to go?” she asked, restlessly eager to leave as she checked her watch.

“Uh, yeah. One moment…” Harry went over to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and to Hermione’s parents to let them know he’s leaving for the night.

“Ready?” Lily asked again when she saw Harry coming back.

Harry nodded.

They descended the stairs leading outside to the Entrance Hall.

“Congratulations again, Harry!” Hermione burst out as she and Ron ran down the stairs towards them.

“Yeah, very well deserved, mate.” said Ron, coming to a halt behind Harry and Lily.

“Hi, Mrs. Potter.” Hermione greeted while Ron eyed her nervously. “My parents wanted to invite you and Harry for dinner tonight.”

Harry looked up at her mother.

Seeing the dark look Lily was giving off to Harry, Hermione added quickly, “Mr. and Mrs. Weasley are going to be there as well.”

“Please join us. It’s gonna be fun.” Ron said in a pleading voice.

“We can’t tonight.” Lily said curtly and grabbed Harry’s arm. “Let’s go.”

Harry’s lips moved silently, mouthing the words “I’m sorry” to his friends as Lily dragged him out away from them, away from Hogwarts.

 

Chapter Text

Lily and Harry arrived a moment later at Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop where they found seats near the window. Looking around, Harry could see some couples dancing to the music at the very back. He was surprised to find the place not so crowded, unlike the last time he was here with Cho Chang. The bad memories he had here were overwhelmingly uncomfortable, especially now that he was sitting here with his mother, who he thought, looked ready to tackle dark wizards. 

Lily was looking out the window. She was holding her hands together on top of the table, her eyes showing signs of unease. The cute decorations were obviously not helping. 

“Mum...” 

“The meeting was... a disaster,” said Lily slowly. “Our Chief Auror is pissed and I’m screwed.” She sighed and looking highly uneasy. 

Harry was looking anxious. He knew he messed up the meeting for her. If only he’d known she had the folder with her at the time, this wouldn’t have happened. 

“Mum, I’m so sorry... I shouldn’t have –“ 

“Do you even realize how humiliating this is for me?” she asked

Harry swallowed hard and brought his head down. “I know,” he muttered. “And I’m so sor –“ 

“Forget it.” Lily cut him off and gave him a stern look. There was a long pause. Harry’s heart was beating fast. He knew it was his fault. 

Lily took a deep, exasperated breath and asked, “So, what else is going on?” 

Harry couldn’t bring himself to talk. He fidgeted a little in his seat before speaking. 

“Ron’s twin brothers opened a shop in Diagon Alley – The Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. And I went down there this morning to help with –“ 

“Sounds like fun.” Lily cut him off and a hint of unconcern flashed through her eyes as she stared at Harry. 

There was a strained silence, broken only by the music playing in the background. Harry glanced at some couples dancing. He can vividly remember seeing a picture of his parents dancing in the park, looking very happy. He looked back at his mother, “Do you want to... dance?” he asked, hoping against hope that maybe this could ease the tension. 

“When have you ever seen me dance?” asked Lily coldly. 

The turn of their conversation was obviously not going well. Harry decided to change the subject. “So, where did you go this afternoon after the meeting?” 

“I spent the rest of the day walking around the city, thinking...” 

“About?” 

“About us.” said Lily. Harry shifted uncomfortably. 

Lily pressed on, “I have to admit our morning was not the greatest, and the meeting was - ” she glanced at Harry’s troubled look and added hastily, “I was wondering what to do, and then I met this old man on the lift and we talked. He made me realize that even though you and I have problems, we share a lot too, and I should appreciate that. Because underneath everything and despite this awful day... you are important to me.” 

“I guess what I’m really trying to say is... I want to persevere even though I know it is difficult. I really do.” Lily said finally. 

Harry was quiet for a moment, trying to comprehend what she meant. They never talked about this, let alone sat in a coffee shop together. 

“What... what do you mean - difficult?” asked Harry, looking worried. “Am I making your life difficult?” 

Lily crossed her arms. “You, of all people, should know how hard it is for me to actually raise and be with you, and always looking out for your well-being. What do you think your father would say if he were here?” 

“But I’m doing my best everyday trying to help you out.” Harry reasoned quietly. “I am doing what you want, so I think dad would be happy.” 

“He’d be ashamed of seeing what you’d become!” Lily shot back with a glare. “You’re not strong – you’re not working harder!” 

“That’s not true,” Harry said quietly. “I am working har –“ 

“You are not! You are weak!” Lily cut him off, still glaring at Harry.

“Is that all I am to you?” he asked with a slight bitterness to his tone. “I have excelled in school - I got the top mark!” Harry burst out, his voice dripping with frustration. “I’ve been studying hard for years! Does that even count to you?” 

“You are delusional to think that getting a top mark in school would make you invincible!” Lily countered, her eyes flashed dangerously. 

“I didn’t –“ 

“You are not making any effort to become stronger! Do you even realize how many people are being killed and yet you just go on with your life wasting precious time in a joke shop!” 

Harry looked at her desperately, wishing for his mother to understand. “I am doing what I can –“ 

“You are not doing enough!” Lily shouted angrily. “Your father died trying to save you! He risked his life for your own sake! How could you take that for granted? He –“ she hesitated, “He was the only person that was keeping me sane! Do you even care? Why do you have to take him away from me?!” 

An overwhelming sadness and hurt hung over Harry. He can feel the pent up emotion rise in his chest. His mother seemed to have put up an invisible wall, a barrier. He felt sick; this wasn’t the way things were supposed to be. They were supposed to be celebrating. 

“Why can’t you even see what I’m doing?” Harry’s eyes welled with tears, his voice quivering slightly. “I am doing all of this for you! Why can’t you be proud of me for once? Why can’t you come and talk to me and be happy even for just a second?” 

“I do talk to you and –“ 

Really?” Harry asked more forcefully, sadness lacing his words. All the things that had been troubling him from the start came crashing down; the fact that Lily refused to share anything about James or simply not opening herself up to Harry, which had been tormenting him for ages, and her being distant to everybody.

“You never tell me how you feel or talk about yourself or dad. You forgot my assembly. We ran into my bestfriends and you act as if they have something contagious...” 

Harry stopped himself sighed heavily, thinking that it is pointless to continue.

“Mum, I know you have the best intentions, but I feel like I am just another one of your cases at work that needs solving... That hurts.” Lily heard her son’s voice break as tears started leaking from beneath his eyelids. “And the worst part is… I think I’m used to it.” 

Lily furrowed her brows, confused. “I don’t understand...” she paused, her eyes flickering up to meet Harry’s pained expression. 

Sorrow filled Harry’s every being. This is killing me. I don’t know how to make her understand. “If there’d just been one day, mum...” he cried, “one day, when nothing else mattered but us.” 

Lily sat quietly for a long moment, a stunned look on her face. 

“I’m going home.” Harry said in a very audible whisper as he stood up, wiping his tears away. 

Barely holding on to his last strand of hope, he looked at his mother and said, “I saw you earlier at Quality Quidditch Supplies, what were you doing?” 

“Work.” said Lily simply. 

That was the last straw for Harry; he couldn’t take the hurt anymore. It was suffocating him. Unable to control himself, he shed more tears as he turned around and left. 

A few couples were eyeing Lily curiously and talking among themselves after seeing a young man ran out the door. It was a painful scene to witness. Some of them heard the conversation and gave Lily disapproving looks, while others were merely shaking their heads. 

Lily inhaled deeply as she pressed her hands to her head, looking dejected. She never wanted her night with her son to go wrong. Why does everything have to be this way? She tried to relive their conversation from the start when she told Harry how he wasn’t strong enough, how James would be ashamed... I never meant to say it! Lily cursed under her breath. She can’t believe she said it like it’s a natural thing to say to a child. And now her son’s getting used to all of it. And I didn’t even notice it... Am I a horrible mother? 

Lily drew a long breath, thinking of her son. She knew she had to pull her act together and make this right. 

There was an abrupt change of mood inside the shop; the music stopped playing, all eyes looking nervously outside the windows. They could hear commotion outside, people shouting and screaming and running in different directions, some popping noises and then silence. 

A scared-looking man entered the shop and yelled, “Someone’s been attacked!” 

Lily stood up quickly, chills ran down her spine. No! 

She ran hurriedly out of the shop, frantically looking around the dimly-lit street, not knowing where to go. No... please... 

She saw people running away to the other side of the street, fleeing to something that was moving in the shadows. Hooded figures in black cloaks emerged and went in the other direction. Death Eaters. 

Lily ran down towards where they came from, brandishing her wand just in time to see and hear a merciless cackle of a gaunt and skull-like woman: Bellatrix Lestrange, an evil grin on her face and looking directly at her before Disapparating. Heart beating fast, Lily turned a corner – 

Someone was sprawled on the ground, twisting and turning. She could hear moans and small gasps as they tried to catch breaths. Inhaling sharply, Lily sprinted towards it, cold sweat trickling down her forehead. No... please... please... 

She gulped some air as she drew closer, each step was suffocating. No... no... no... 

Lily had reached the floor, her breath coming in searing gasps. She knew very well those green emerald eyes. 

“NO!” Lily screamed. “No! Oh please! No! Harry! HARRY!” She broke down in hysterical sobs. 

Small beads of sweat covered Harry’s face. He whimpered, breathing hard as he tried to look at his mother. 

“Mum?” 

Lily knelt down beside him, “I’m here, Harry. I’m here...” She cried as she grabbed her son’s hand, caressing it slowly. 

Harry’s eyes shut, an excruciating pain coursed through his whole body. He cried out in agony and grabbed his stomach where a silver knife with rune markings around it was lodged deep inside him. Lily went pale as she saw the knife. She had seen it before. No! No! No! 

“Mum!” Harry cried out desperately, trying to bite back the pain. His whole body tensed up and Lily watched him helplessly as he began to shake slightly. Lily squeezed his hand letting her son know she’s there. 

She looked into his pain-filled emerald eyes, “Harry, I know you’re hurting... and it’s going to be even more painful, but I’m going to try and... and pull out the knife, okay?” she warned, smoothing his hair back. 

Harry slammed his eyes shut as Lily took hold of the knife. Another overwhelming pain shot through Harry’s body. Harry whimpered and clenched his teeth. “It’ll be over soon,” Lily assured him. She took a deep, shaking breath and pulled out the knife.

Harry screamed, tears streaked down his face. It was pain beyond imagining, pain past endurance. 

Lily frantically tried to ease his agony, to close the deep wound through healing spells. She cast one after another but nothing was working. No! No! Please! 

Eyebrows knitted in pain, Harry tried to speak but was overcome with coughs that racked his entire body. Lily saw to her horror that his son was coughing up blood. 

“Harry, oh Harry!” Lily sobbed, looking down at him worriedly. Her mind went blank in panic. She wiped the blood away as another fit of hacking coughs hit him. Oh god... oh please... 

Harry stared at his mother weakly, swallowing hard, “I’m... sorry –“ he grasped her hand tightly as he cried out, another wave of unbearable pain shooting through his already pained body. 

Lily squeezed his hand gently, “It’s alright, love...” she said soothingly, despite her uncontrollable sobs. “It’s okay...” 

Harry was feeling worse and worse by the second. A moan escaped his lips. He closed his eyes. 

“Harry, stay awake...” said Lily, feeling hopeless as she casted another healing spell, but to no avail. 

Harry opened his eyes miserably, barely seeing anything now. 

“Mum...” he whispered. His vision swam dangerously. 

Lily bent down and sobbed harder, patting her hand onto his in reassurance, “I’m... I’m right here sweetheart... I’m here.” 

“Sorry I’m - not strong enough –“ Harry coughed up blood. 

“NO!” Lily wailed. “That’s not true! You’re strong... you’re strong...” 

As the minutes ticked by, Harry was becoming too tired and weak to move. His breathing became raspy and his pulse was weakening, his eyelids began to droop. 

“No, no, no... Harry!” Lily yelled, jerking him awake. “Don’t close your eyes! Please! Please...” she rocked Harry back and forth in her arms. 

Harry opened his eyes a mere inch, still trying to see from his blurry visions, his breathing slowing down but still holding on to dear life. “I love you, mum...” he said in a low, hoarse voice after all the screaming. 

Lily sobbed more and more. “I love you...” she stroked his hair, his face... “so much.” 

With great difficulty, Harry searched for his mother’s eyes... And with a relieved yet sad last breath Harry smiled and closed his eyes, letting the darkness to finally consume him. 

“HARRY! NO! No...” Lily began shaking Harry’s shoulders desperately. “PLEASE... please... wake up...” 

She did not know how long she was crying, sitting, looking at her son. She couldn’t stand the lack of the rising and falling of his chest that told her he was still alive – that he was just sleeping. She couldn’t stand not seeing his eyes... his green, bright emerald eyes... she couldn’t – 

Lily frantically grabbed her wand and started casting spells trying to heal and bring Harry back. 

A hand rested gently on her shoulder. 

“Please stop,” An old man said softly. “There’s nothing you can do –“ 

“NO! I just need to heal him and he’ll be fine again like always –“ 

“It’s too late.“ The old man held her arm to stop her. 

“It’s not! “ Lily struggled hard to free her arm but the old man would not let go. 

With one final look at his son, she lowered her wand, looked up at the old man desperately but he shook his head sadly and said, “He’s gone.”