I awaken suddenly, feeling sick to my stomach. I always seem to feel nauseated these days. James, Harry and I are under constant threat, and the hell of it is that we have no idea where it's coming from. I am so afraid. I trust James to sort out the Fidelius Charm of course, and I know he'll do what he can to protect us, but my fear isn't for James or even for myself; it's for my baby.
James and I have both done any number of things to incur the enmity of Voldemort and his Death Eaters, but Harry is innocent. He's only a baby, but that won't make a difference to them. They'd kill him without a second thought.
It's not fair. But that's the nature of war, I guess. At least James and I have had a chance to live good lives, however brief. Twenty-one years may not be very long, but in that time we've known happiness, friendship, joy, love. We've had lives. Harry's just beginning his. He deserves a chance. And he'll have one, as long as there's anything I can do about it.
Opening my eyes, I stare at the ceiling in the predawn autumn light.
I don't care what it takes; I'll find a way. Even if we all go down in flames, Harry, at least, will live.
I turn my head and gaze at my husband's profile, silhouetted against the gray light filtering in through the curtains. James looks troubled, frowning in his sleep as though he's still puzzling through the problems that hound him during his waking hours.
Will either of us ever sleep peacefully again? I nearly reach out a hand to brush his cheek, but think better of it. It looks as though he's clenching his jaw in his sleep. I should let him get what rest he can.
Moving carefully so as not to wake him, I quietly sit up and put my feet on the cold floor. Shivering, I quickly grab my green silk dressing gown from a nearby chair, and my wand from the nightstand.
"Thermis," I say quietly, laying the wand tip against the cool cloth.
Warmth blooms out of the soft, green folds, and I quickly swirl the garment around my shoulders, enjoying the feel of warm silk against my skin.
Quietly, I close the bedroom door behind me and tiptoe down the hallway to the nursery.
Harry, at least, is sleeping peacefully. He's sprawled on his front, face turned away from the dawning light, a thumb in his mouth and the soft toy Snitch Remus and Sirius gave him for Christmas clutched in his other fist. The toy's wings flutter feebly, as if it's trying to escape.
Smiling, I pull the blanket up over my sleeping son's shoulders. "You'll live, Harry," I whisper. "You will. I'll see to it."
Professor Flitwick once said that there's not a charm that I couldn't manage if I put my mind to it, and it's said that mother-love is a powerful magic of its own. If I can't find a spell that will protect my son, then I'll make one.
"I won't let them have you," I promise, stroking his downy black hair.
Leaving the room as quietly as I entered, I continue down the hallway to the bathroom. In the mirror, I see a slender young witch, still half a girl, with dark red hair falling nearly to her waist, and wide, scared-looking green eyes. Her jaw, though, is set in grim determination. Once an Evans has come to a decision, God help anyone who tries to shake her of it.
Surprisingly, now that I've set my mind to the task of saving my baby, I'm not afraid anymore. I don't feel helpless now that I'm doing something.
But if I'm not afraid anymore, why do I still feel nauseated? Unless --
There are moments after my dawn realisation that I nearly tell James, but the strain of our current situation is clearly taking its toll on him, and I don't want to add to his anxiety.
We've talked about having another baby -- we both want more children -- but not until the war is over. Under any other circumstances, my condition would be cause for celebration. Just not now. Stupid body.
James spoke with Dumbledore earlier this week about setting a Fidelius Charm on the house, and he tells me he'll be able to do it soon. He's chosen Sirius as our Secret-Keeper, of course, though I'd prefer Remus. He's always been the more responsible of the two. But James won't be moved. Sirius is Harry's godfather; he won't let any harm come to him or to any of us.
I'm planning a supper for the Marauders on the night before the charm will be performed. It won't be much of a celebration, but it'll be good to see everyone one last time before -- Who knows how long it will be before we can safely resurface?
Maybe supper would be a good time to make an announcement. We could all use some good news.
No. James should know first. Maybe I'll tell him after. Or maybe it'd be better to wait until the current danger has passed. By then, he may have figured it out for himself. He's normally fairly perceptive, but he's so preoccupied lately. Sometimes I doubt he'd notice if I charmed my hair purple.
Poor James. I've noticed a strand or two of white mixed in with the black spikes and cowlicks of his hair. I don't mention it to him, though. I'll be going white before long, too, if things don't change soon. But there's no end to the war in sight. At the current rate, it'll be Harry and his generation who finally bring down Voldemort.
Harry is so fussy lately. He's picking up on our anxiety, I think, and expressing it the only way he knows: with a scrunched-up, red face and tears, not to mention sudden outbreaks of nappy rash. The only times he's truly happy anymore are when he comes back from rides on that flying motorbike of Sirius's.
I'm fond of Sirius, but it's a long way from "fond" to thinking my baby's safe with him, flying all over God only knows where. But if it make Harry happy where nothing else seems to these days, how can I refuse him that? He's such an odd duck, my sweet boy. While most babies fuss about the cold, he seems to like the feel of the wind in his face, and he never tires of being outdoors.
He won't even be able to have that, once the Fidelius Charm is in place. We'll be confined to the house for weeks -- maybe months. For now, though, we'll enjoy our last day of relative freedom. I'm taking Harry out into the garden.
Harry fusses as I pick him up from the sitting room floor. He's been shrieking and throwing his toys all over the place. Bundling him into a tiny red-and-gold striped jumper, I carry him out into the crisp autumn air.
He stops shrieking, but he still doesn't seem happy. I set him on the ground and take his chubby hand so he can walk with me. He's grown so fast. It seems like only yesterday, he was just learning how to walk. I wonder what he'll think of having a little brother or sister?
It's been driving me mad, not telling anyone, and it suddenly occurs to me that I can tell someone; I can tell Harry. I know the words have almost no meaning to him, but he's still someone, and someone dear to my heart. I pick him up again, and we sit in one of the garden chairs, Harry facing me on my lap.
"Harry, Sweetie," I say to him earnestly, the words sounding strange to my ears, "Mummy's going to have another baby. You're going to be a big brother!"
Harry looks at me uncomprehendingly, of course, but he sees I'm smiling, and smiles back. I sigh and set him on the ground again, watching as he toddles down the path and in among the plants.
I suddenly wonder if Remus will be able to guess. He has a werewolf's sense of smell and animal instinct, and is as aware of the tides of body and moon as any woman. James says that he knew almost right away, last time. But he and Sirius are as preoccupied as James, these days. And if Remus does notice, he'll have the sense not to say anything until I do.
They'll be here soon. I should really get back to the house and start working on supper. I wish I could leave Harry to play in the garden by himself, but I know he'll get himself into trouble the second my back is turned. If he were older, maybe I would. But not now. Not today.
"No, Mama!" he squawks in protest as I disentangle him from a growth of Scarlet Ivy which has twined itself around his arms. I carry him, squalling, back into the house.
Remus and Sirius arrive just as I'm setting the table. Sirius goes into the sitting room to play with his godson, but Remus takes both my hands in his own and gives me a look of deep concern.
"How are you holding up, Lils?" he asks, giving my fingers a squeeze.
"As well as can be expected," I say evasively. "Better in some ways, not so much in others."
"Is there anything I can do?" he asks. "I feel like I've been useless to you lately. Everyone's so tense, and no one's talking about anything. You know if you need to talk, you can still come to me, right?"
"I know," I assure him, smiling tiredly. "Remus, you are dearer than a brother to me. But you know why no one's talking."
He nods darkly. "Do you suspect me, Lily?" he asks, tone suggesting he is only mildly curious.
"You know I don't, Remus," I say, squeezing his hands. "But you never know when someone might be listening. Don't worry." I try to smile again. "There will be plenty of time to talk later, when this bloody war is over."
He nods grimly.
We go to the door of the sitting room. Sirius is throwing the toy Snitch to Harry, and Harry is trying to catch it, giggling and shrieking uproariously.
Remus sighs deeply, causing me to glance up at him. He's watching Harry and Sirius with a look of such deep yearning that it squeezes my heart. I want to ask him if he's picked up the application to adopt from the Ministry yet, but I know it'll get him on the subject of children, and then he'll ask if James and I have talked any more, and once we get on that topic there's no way for me not to tell him. I want James to know first, so I don't ask. Instead, I ask him how things are between him and Sirius.
He shakes his head. "Tense," he says. "Like everything else. You don't think --" he asks haltingly "-- he might be the one who --?"
A rush of pitying tears blurs my vision. "I don't know," I say, squeezing his hand and wishing I had more comfort to offer. "I hope not."
But that only leaves Peter, who surprises us all by showing up soon after James arrives home from his last day at the Ministry. Peter hasn't been around much lately -- busy, he says, caring for his sick mother. None of us have seen much of him in months.
James insists that Peter wouldn't have the nerve to go anywhere near Voldemort and his Death Eaters, but I don't see it like that. The others are edgy, but Peter is downright twitchy. He jumps at every sound. Looking at the short, plump young man with lank, colourless hair sitting at my table, I wonder if it's him.
James says he doesn't believe it's any of his friends, and that Voldemort must be getting his information some other way. His confidence in his three friends is absolute, and he simply can't imagine one of them turning traitor. Maybe he's right. After all, he's known them better and longer than I have. Maybe it's just that I've never been close to Peter. Maybe I even want it to be him. He's never been family to me like Remus and Sirius are, and his loss wouldn't be nearly as devastating.
It's a risk to have them all here at once, when even Dumbledore thinks that one of them is a turncoat, but James insisted, and I wanted to see Remus and Sirius one more time before the charm is performed. I wonder sometimes, though, if James has suspicions. Maybe he's just putting up a brave front, to allay my own fears, or just out of his usual, infuriating overconfidence.
Tonight, he looks grim as hell. I keep catching his eyes flashing from face to face, looking for clues in each of his friends' expressions or body language. His eyes flicker most often to Peter. Maybe he suspects him, too. I reach out to touch his arm for reassurance for the dozenth time tonight, reaffirming my trust. If he knows where the danger lies, then he'll be better able to protect us.
"Sure, I could take Voldemort in a duel," he says with the maddening arrogance that always accompanies his most outrageous boasts. "It's just all those minions and people under the Imperius Curse that get in the way. If someone would just take him out, the whole Death Eater thing would collapse. Wait and see."
"Your overconfidence will be the death of us all, James," I murmur before I can stop myself. I'd meant it as a joke, but it falls flat as my voice quavers. They're all terrified for us and for themselves to find any humour in the situation. Well, I'm scared too, but at least I'm doing something about it.
Harry fusses and cries all the way through supper, and when Remus offers to take him out into the garden again afterwards, I gratefully accept, even though it is beginning to grow dark.
After supper, James takes Sirius aside to make arrangements for casting the Fidelius Charm tomorrow, and I know I'm not needed for that. I offer to entertain Peter in the sitting room while James and Sirius talk in the kitchen, but Peter praises my efforts over supper and says he can entertain himself, if I want to take a quick rest. I must say, I'm grateful for some time alone.
I'm physically exhausted, but I don't want to sleep. For days, I've been researching; seeking some charm -- some spell -- that might suit my purpose, and gathering the strongest protective ingredients I can find, but I haven't yet found any magic strong enough to offer sure protection for my baby.
As I lie on our bed, staring at the ceiling, drifting on the gray shallows of exhaustion, it hits me like a bolt of lightning. I don't just need a spell that will shield Harry; I need one that will defend him -- something that will deflect the power of an attack spell back onto the attacker. My tired brain remembers something Remus once told me about long ago: a mirror that reflects a person's desires.
A mirror spell might work, if it were strong enough. Something to reflect the desire to do harm back on the aggressor. As I lie, unmoving, the pieces of a plan begin to draw together and take shape in my mind.
I know what I have to do now, but it's bloody close to the Dark Arts. I'll have to do it when James isn't around to object. Maybe tomorrow, when he and Sirius are putting the Fidelius Charm in place. He won't need me for that. I'll have half an hour -- maybe longer -- to do what must be done, and James need never know about it. It can work -- I'm almost certain. It has to work. Harry will be safe.
Quickly, I get out of bed and organise the items I'll need for the spell, securing them in a safe place, then I return to the kitchen. Peter's there now, which must mean that James and Sirius are done making arrangements for the charm. James rises as I enter the room. I sag gratefully into his warm embrace.
"Did you get any sleep, Love?" he asks, kissing the top of my head.
"None," I admit. "But I feel better. Have you -- got everything sorted out?"
He gives me one of those Quidditch captain smiles of his -- the kind that always made my belly shiver when we were at school, though I never admitted it at the time -- and it has the expected effect, despite the tiredness in his eyes.
"Yes," he says. "I think I've got it all figured out. We'll do it tomorrow, like we planned."
Then Remus comes back in with Harry, eyes haunted and bloodshot from tears. James takes Harry from him, and thanks him with an unusual depth of emotion. Remus nods wordlessly. I put my arms around him, say goodbye, and stand on tiptoe to kiss his cheek, holding back my own tears. Sirius is already waiting at the door, pulling on his leather jacket.
James and I stand in the doorway with Harry, waving goodbye as Peter mounts his broomstick and Remus swings up behind Sirius on the bike, and the three of them rise up out of Godric's Hollow. As they shrink into specks, and finally disappear into the night sky, I suddenly feel very much alone. Then James is there behind me, putting his arms around me and Harry. I feel his lips, soft against my ear.
"So, Sirius will be coming by tomorrow afternoon, then?" I ask distractedly, still gazing into the darkness.
"Hmmm?" he murmurs against my neck. "Oh. Yeah. We'll do the charm sometime tomorrow afternoon."
"Good," I say. "I expect we'll all feel safer once it's been done. But I'll miss everyone."
"Me too, Love," James says regretfully, giving my shoulders a squeeze. "Me too."
I can't sleep. It's always difficult these days, but tonight -- the night before I do what I must -- the night before the Fidelius Charm imprisons us indefinitely in our home -- sleep is an especially long time coming. James moves, turning toward me. His hand slides across my belly. I'd thought that he, at least, was asleep.
Maybe I should tell him now. Maybe he already knows. "James --"
"Shhh." He gathers me into his arms, warm hands running over my body. I turn to him willingly, seeking distraction from too many days of dark thoughts.
James is good at what he does -- bloody good. He's thorough, never taking any part of me for granted, and always grateful, as if he's still surprised that he won me. My body responds effortlessly to his devotion.
My arms twine around his neck, and I pull him down to me so that our lips meet -- so that the secret weight in my womb is cradled between us, safe, almost as close to him as it is to me. I try to speak again, but his mouth is warm against mine, and by the time he releases me from the kiss, the desire to tell at once has passed, replaced by more pressing desires.
I shiver as his tongue briefly teases the hollow of my throat, then continues its downward journey. His lips finds my swollen breast, and he drinks hungrily the milk that still flows for our son. My heart races as my body responds, providing sustenance for love. My hands tangle in the dark whorls of his hair, pressing him hard against my breast as a soft moan escapes me. I will protect you, too, my Love, if I can -- with my body and my life, if I must.
"You're beautiful, Lily," he murmurs, nuzzling my belly.
With a sigh, I part my thighs to him, opening to the warmth of his mouth. My hands, still tangled in his hair, urge him not to stop. Weeks of tension stored up in my body flow away as I yield myself to the magic of his mouth.
He takes his time, always giving the impression that there's nowhere he'd rather be, and nothing he'd rather be doing. His mouth moves eagerly, but he never hurries, and I never feel rushed to respond. I know he will happily keep going for as long as it takes. He never stops until my soft cries and the movements of my hips inform him of a job well done.
Only then does he make his way up the contours of my body, until he finds my mouth again with his. I return his kiss hungrily, tasting myself on his lips, sliding my hands over his back, settling them on his hips, wanting, needing, trying to draw him into me quickly.
But he takes his time about that, too, settling himself unhurriedly between my thighs. I know he wants me as badly as I want him, but I also know that he'll put off the moment of our joining just a little longer, until he finds the pleading he so desires in my eyes. I give it to him gladly.
His eyes hold mine as he lowers his hips, and I can feel him pressing against my entrance, questing, questioning. I raise my hips in answer, opening to him, gasping my pleasure at the feel of him sliding inside, filling me, until our bodies are pressed together from mouth to knee. Then I feel him move inside me, and my eyes flutter closed.
His lips find mine again, and my response is electric. I want to keep him safe inside my own skin, this man I love, close as the new life blooming within me. Eagerly, I taste his mouth. Clutching his shoulders in a surprising surge of strength, I move, pressing up against him, and in an instant, he's on his back, my thighs cradling his hips protectively, and my hair floating in sheltering waves around us both.
I press both his hands to the bed, holding his body still between my thighs as I move against him. This time, it's his eyes that close, his head that tilts back, his lips parting in a soft moan. I move my hips against him, demanding, elated by the feeling of control over at least this one moment in time. He gasps and moans again, trying to free his hands for my service, but I keep them pinned against the pillow. I swivel my hips against him, enjoying it as much as he does, though for a different reason. My body demanding, his complying.
When I finally let go his hands, he pushes himself into a sitting position, wrapping his arms around me, and burying his face between my breasts. He meets my thrusts hard, trying to make me cry out again, though we both know he's at my mercy and can't last much longer.
His arms around me, hands tangled in the silken strands at the nape of my neck, he forces our movements to slow to a gentle rocking motion and closes his mouth on my breast once more. The milk rushes to my nipple again as he suckles, and the blood pounds in my loins. When my soft cries begin again, he speeds our motion. I try to move urgently against him, squeezing him tight inside me, but now it's his turn to hold me still and captive.
It's only when he hears my whimper, feels my body convulsing against him and around him, that he lets himself go, riding the waves of my climax along with me, forehead pressed against my breasts, smelling milk and sweat and sex as his own moans mingle with my cries.
When we are finally still, he collapses slowly back onto the bed, arms around me, pulling me close against his chest.
"Lily -- Lily, I love you," he murmurs into my sweat-tangled hair.
I place my hand against his chest, holding his pounding heart. "I love you, James."
I'm still going to tell him. Really, I am. But after a moment, his breathing slows and becomes more regular, and I knows he's fallen asleep. The darkness steals over me, and soon I'm drifting off, too, glowing with tenderness, my love safe in my arms.
I would have liked to see Sirius one more time, but I think it might be better to pretend to be sleeping when he arrives. There will be more time for what I need to do that way. So right after lunch, I tell James I feel tired, and that I'm going to take Harry for a lie-down in the bedroom. James smiles and promises not to disturb our rest, and kisses me lingeringly, memories of the previous night echoing between us. Then I take our cranky, red-faced son from his arms and go into the bedroom, closing the door behind us.
For a moment, I pace, rocking and gently bouncing my baby, and singing to him under my breath until he begins to quiet down. And I listen. Despite his promise not to wake me, James might still come in at any moment, so I don't want to start until I'm sure he's busy with Sirius. I wait nearly half an hour, and my fraying patience is finally rewarded with a knock on the front door.
As soon as I hear the door open -- hear James greeting the visitor -- I spring into action. Laying my dozing Harry against the pillows, I move about the room, placing a temporary silencing charm on the walls, before kneeling to draw a locked wooden chest from beneath the bed.
"Alohomora Liliae," I whisper, tapping the lock with my wand -- a special lock, which only responds to my voice.
The lid springs open. Inside the chest is a small, round mirror, a phial of coarse, black powder, and a tiny, wicked-looking silver blade. Strange how the strongest spells often employ the simplest tools.
The mirror, especially, should be perfect for my purposes. It is an old object, picked up while antiquing with Remus. I could feel the power in it the moment I touched it. Not for the first time, I wonder who it belonged to, and how it came to be in a Muggle shop.
My heart races. I don't have the Latin for what I want to do; I pray that the Powers I'm about to call upon will understand and accept plain English if it's respectfully spoken.
Laying the objects out on the bed next to Harry, careful not to disturb his slumber, I undress. I kneel on the bed, wand raised, and take a deep breath.
"Spirits of Light and Dark, I entreat Thee. Come to a mother's calling. Bestow a mother's blessing. Preserve the life of a child."
My breasts begin to tingle, and I feel again the rush of milk to my nipples. As the warm liquid begins to drip down my belly, I hear a voice -- not in the room with me, but inside my head. It is one voice and many and sexless, and hearing it hurts like an immense pressure inside my skull. I bite my lip to keep from crying out.
WE ARE HERE. WHY DO YOU DISTURB US, MORTAL WOMAN?
"Please," I say. "I need to save my child. I -- I think I know what to do, but I need you to guide me -- and to lend me some of your power."
MORTAL LIVES ARE NO CONCERN OF OURS, says the voice, scornfully.
"Please," I beg. "I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important. If you only knew what a mother's love for a child means --"
WE KNOW SUCH LOVE HAS GREAT VALUE AMONG MORTALS, says the voice.
There is a long pause.
VERY WELL. BUT YOU HAVE ASKED A GREAT THING, AND IT WILL COME AT A GREAT PRICE.
"Anything," I moan, clutching my aching head between my hands. "Anything, only tell me what I must do!"
POUR OUT THE POWDER OF SYMPATHY ONTO THE FACE OF THE MIRROR, the voice echoes inside my head.
I take the glass stopper from the phial with trembling fingers, and pour the black powder onto the small, round mirror, distractedly noting that my reflection's nose is bleeding. The powder cost fifty galleons, and was purchased in Knockturn Alley. I use it all without reservation.
Powder of Sympathy is a rare compound which has the strange property of being able to connect -- usually through blood -- the fate of an object with the fate of a living being. When applied to a mirror, the effect is slightly different: whatever happens to the mirror happens to the person reflected in it.
THE POWDER MUST BE ACTIVATED BY BLOOD, the voice continues, as the last grains have fall onto the mirror's surface.
I nod, unable to speak. Tears of pain stream down my face.
I raise the tiny, silver dagger, and prick my breast, just over my heart. A mother's blood. What substance on earth could hold more powerful protective magic? Leaning forward, I watch as the drops of blood mingle with my milk, and drip onto the mirror to mix with the powder. My tears fall into the mix as well. I hope they won't weaken the magic.
TAKE THE CHILD TO YOUR BREAST.
Carefully, I lift my sleeping son from the bed and cradle him in my arms. Harry's sleepy green eyes, so like my own, open, and he turns toward me for sustenance. His mouth clamps onto my nipple, and if he tastes the blood, he gives no sign of it. I suppose it won't hurt him.
CHOOSE THE SEAT OF THE SPELL, AND MARK HIM.
"Mark him?" I hiss between gritted teeth. "What do you mean?"
CUT HIM. HIS BLOOD IS REQUIRED. CHOOSE THE HOME OF THE PROTECTION, AND MARK HIM THERE.
Hesitantly, I shift Harry's position until I'm clutching his heavy, compact body clumsily with one arm. Once more, I take the knife in my trembling hand. Cut him? Intentionally hurt my baby? The thought is appalling. It's a long way from cutting myself to "marking" Harry's fair, unblemished skin. Reluctantly, I touch the point of the knife to his forehead and prick him. A single drop of blood wells up, and Harry opens his mouth and begins to wail.
Throwing the knife away, I clutch my baby hard against my shoulder. "Oh, Sweetie! Oh, Love! Mummy didn't mean it! Mummy didn't want to hurt you!"
Tears of guilt stream down my face. I glared around the room, as if trying to find the source of the voice inside my head.
"There!" I declare defiantly. "Is that enough? Are you satisfied?"
IT IS ENOUGH, says the voice. TAKE THE MIRROR AND LAY IT AGAINST THE SEAT OF THE SPELL.
Once again holding Harry with one arm, I pick up the mirror, trying to hold it level so that none of the sludgy liquid on its surface spills. I carefully rest it, face-up, against Harry's forehead. The cold of it startles him into silence, and his eyes fly open.
I can see myself in the mirror's surface, looking very young and very frightened, wide green eyes staring into wide green eyes. And then, seemingly without transition, the eyes I'm looking into are not my own, but Harry's. The mirror is gone.
Hands shaking, I lay my still-whimpering baby on the bed. Fumbling for a handkerchief, I dab at my nose and my front, wiping away the spilled milk and blood, both of which seem to have stopped flowing.
When I go to wipe Harry's forehead as well, I can find no sign of the place where I marked him.
I find up the knife beside the bed, and wipe the blade clean, returning it, the handkerchief, and the empty phial to the wooden chest. The lock clicks into place, hiding my secret darkness, and I slide it back into place under the bed, relieved. It's over now; Harry is safe.
I'm just reaching for my dressing gown when the terrible voice sounds in my head again.
YOU HAVE HAD WHAT YOU WISHED OF US. NOW WE WILL TAKE OUR PRICE. A LIFE FOR A LIFE.
There's a sudden stabbing pain in my belly, as if my womb has been skewered. Gasping, I bend over double, clutching at my middle. The pain is constant, sharp and unending. It goes on and on. In a moment, I'll be torn in half.
"My baby," I moan weakly, as blackness swirls around me.
I can hear Harry screaming from a long way off. Unconsciousness takes me before my body hits the floor.
I lie in bed, staring at the ceiling and trying not to cry again. In the days since I cast the protective charm, James has been the embodiment of care and concern. I haven't told him what happened -- I've said little and eaten less in the past four days -- but there was no hiding from him the fact that I had miscarried.
James is devastated, of course, and his worry for my safety and Harry's seems to have increased tenfold.
"I thought I could protect you both," he laments, time and again. "I've been so stupid."
I have no reassurance to offer; my own grief is still too near.
I know it's my own fault. I asked for something huge, and I accepted that there would be a price without asking what it was. At least Harry will be safe now. May he never know the price of his life.
The sound of ceramic breaking wakes me from a light doze. I go to the top of the stairs, and see James standing frozen in the kitchen, staring at the door. A shattered teacup lies unnoticed on the floor at his feet.
"James?" I call down to him. "James, what's wrong?" "Harry's in his room," he says without taking his eyes off the door. His voice sounds odd. "Go get him."
Wand in hand, he edges over to the kitchen window, peering out into the darkness of the garden.
"Is someone out there, James?" I ask, voice trembling.
If there is someone out there, something has gone very, very wrong. We should be safe, here in our home. No one should be able to threaten us here, especially not --
James gasps and throws himself against the door, pressing his back to the wood. "Lily, take Harry and go!" he yells. "It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off --"
I feel the blood drain from my face. From the look of utter terror on James's face, "him" can mean only one person: Voldemort has come for us at last.
Flying to Harry's room, I stumble over a litter of toys in the darkness. Harry is crying, awakened by his father's shout.
An explosion knocks me off my feet. Wood splinters, and the room is lit with an eerie green for a split second.
"James?" I call, pulling myself to my feet. "James? James!"
The only answer is a high-pitched cackle that chills me to my bones.
I turn slowly, dreading what I'll see. Striding up the stairs is a tall figure in black robes. He looks at me with cold, dead eyes, wand upraised. I suddenly realise that I've left my own wand in the bedroom.
Past the cloaked figure, at the foot of the stairs, I see a pair of legs, still against the floorboards.
A moan of despair wells up in my throat. There is nothing that I can do for him now.
I drag my eyes away from the body of my husband, and back to the cold eyes of the man before me. I can still protect my baby, even if the last and only thing I have to put between him and that deadly wand is my own body.
A cold smile uncurls itself on Voldemort's face, and he takes a step towards me.
"Not Harry," I beg, arms spread to bar the nursery door. "Not Harry, please not Harry!"
"Stand aside, you silly girl," he says, irritation evident in his voice. "Stand aside, now."
I feel like I'm in a dream. The words make no sense to me. Voldemort has come to kill. There is no mercy in him. My husband is already dead. Why has he not killed me yet? All I know is that I have to protect Harry.
"Not Harry!" I say, jaw clenched in defiance. "Not Harry! Please -- I'll do anything --"
"Stand aside -- stand aside, girl!" He's looking at me with clear annoyance, as if a mother taking a final stand for her child's life is beyond his comprehension.
"Not Harry! Please ... have mercy ... have mercy ..." I have no hope left, but I will plead with those merciless eyes to my last breath.
Tiring of our standoff, he pushes me roughly out of the way. I grab hold of his arm, pulling him with all my strength away from the bed of my dear baby boy.
"Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead --"
He turns to me then, laughing the same cold, shrill laugh that marked the end of my husband's life.
"I think not, girl," he says quietly. "There is no 'instead'."
I never hear the words of the curse, but as the green light envelopes me, I have time for one last, hopeless thought.
Poor Remus. I guess it was Sirius after all.