It had been snowing all night on the little town of Godric Hollow. In the serene silence that preceded the soft greens and blues of dawn, a woman slept peacefully, her fiery hair draped all over her pillows.
A high pitched scream tore through the redhead's dream, waking her up from her slumber. Springing upright, she blindly tried to throw off the covers that had ended up tangled around her limbs as she slept soundly.
Before Lily Potter, née Evans, could even comprehend what was going on, a crashing sound erupted beside her, quickly followed by the howls of a wounded animal. Senses now on high alert, the witch hopped out of bed and bent down to help the whining stag sprawled across the floor.
As soon as the animal found its way back to its feet, it crossed the room in two jumps. It couldn't get any further than the door however, for, as it charged at the exit, its antlers got stuck in the threshold. The stag came to an abrupt halt, hooves screeching against the wooden floor.
"James, calm down," urged Lily. The young woman was having a hard time slowing down her own heartbeats though and, staring into her husband's eyes, which were wide with worry, she could not find the right words to soothe him.
Something suddenly caught Lily's attention and she stopped breathing all together. Frozen on the spot, the girl looked fixedly at the twinkling lights of red and green that came pouring down the window.
They were here. Curses were being shot in direction of their little cottage. The day had come.
They had found them.
For a wild moment of sheer anguish, the redhead's blood seemed to stop running through her veins. Then, as quickly as fear had gotten a grip on her heart, reason came back to her and she remembered the Christmas lights she had helped James put up the night before last.
Once she had convinced herself that the house wasn't under attack, Lily turned her attention back to James. It took a lot of effort, as much from the panicked stag than the overwhelmed woman, to angle the beast's head in a way that would make possible for it to get through the door.
When the animal finally stumbled into the hallway, it took tottering steps towards the door at the end of the passage. As the stag shakily made its way down to its son's bedroom, its antlers gradually shrunk back into its head and tufts of jet black hair began sprouting out of its skull, standing in disarray on top of it.
The wizard, for the beast had by then completely transformed back into a man, began running and closed the remaining distance in no time. His socks-covered feet slipped at the last second, but, before he could fully fall on his knees, he put his hands on the floor and pushed himself up, his eyes never leaving the red door that he was desperately trying to reach.
A wail came from behind the panel and Lily, her chest constricted with a terror born within her nightmares, hurried behind James, who had already disappeared inside Harry's nursery.
By the time she entered the bedroom, James had the baby in his arms and was whispering sweet nothings in the infant's ear. Harry was slowly quieting down; drawing comfort from the warmth that radiated from his father's body and the low rumble that came from James' throat as he hummed softly.
The way her husband could induce tranquility into people with his voice only was the reason why Lily had fallen for him in the first place.
Right now, however, the woman knew her son wasn't the one who needed comfort the most.
It wasn't unusual for James to fall victim to a panic attack these days. He would wake up from another tumultuous nightmare in a hysterical craze and would spontaneously transform into Prongs without being able to morph back.
The young father had taken the news of the prophecy peculiarly badly and spent many sleepless nights troubling his mind over it.
James was a courageous man and there was not an ounce of a doubt in Lily's mind that he would gladly fight You-Know-Who on his own if it meant his family would be safe. However, being cooped up here, unable to do anything to protect Harry other than keeping him hidden was driving James crazy with frustration.
Lily felt the same. For months now, every single quiet moments they had been granted with had been spent fearing for their baby's life.
What kind of existence was that?
The witch approached her husband with caution, gently resting a hand on his trembling shoulder. James had buried his face deep into Harry's soft locks; black and wild so much like his father's, and was inhaling the sweet smell of his son's scalp.
Green, watery eyes looked up at Lily, which was soon faced with a broad, toothless grin.
The woman caught the tiny hand Harry was waving in her direction and held it with one of her own before bringing it to her lips. James' arm snaked its way around her waist and within seconds she found herself squished against her husband's firm chest and her baby's tender cheek.
Despite all things, Lily caught herself thinking that, given the choice to start her life all over, she would always end up living this very moment. After all, she was literally surrounded by everything she had ever desired.
James's face was suspiciously wet, but Lily knew better than to point it out to him. Instead, she let him hug the living lights out of Harry and her, aware that feeling their warm and breathing bodies against his was the only thing that could bring him back to earth right then.
Once she felt like he had gotten his fill and was able to face the music, she took a tiny step back in order to break his embrace. He let her go easily, but, as soon as she had freed her head from the cocoon they had formed the three of them together, he bent down and caught her lips with his.
It was gentle and insistent at the same time and Lily's heart lost his rhythm, dancing to a irregular beat for a second. She felt a familiar tug in her lower stomach and had to remember where she was. She doubted that the day when James didn't have this effect on her would ever come.
She rose on her tiptoes and kissed him back trying to convey her loving the best way she could. As her hands cupped his cheeks, rough with stubble, her thumbs cleared the remaining traces of tears from under his eyes in a slow circular motion.
The kiss came to an abrupt end when Lily's head was suddenly yanked downward. Looking back at Harry, who was now pulling a fistful of Lily's hair towards his mouth, James chuckled throatily and went to pry, one by one, the baby's fingers from the auburn locks.
The witch's gaze briefly left the man and darted to the window. A genuine smile appeared on her face, her eyes crinkling slightly. "Why don't you call Sirius? It's almost morning after all and he must be beside himself with excitement already."
James glanced at her with a puzzled look, still trying to loosen his son grip, which was surprisingly strong for a five months old. "Lily, that's the way Sirius is on most days. If I were to call him over every time he was feeling hyper, I might as well offer him to live with us."
"That might be right, darling, but it's not Christmas morning every day," replied Lily, hardly suppressing the giggle building up in her throat.
James' head snapped in direction of the window, which was coated with white sparkling snow, and whooped. His cry of happiness was enough to startle Harry into letting go of his mother's hair. Father and son were by the window sill in no time. Man's yelps of elation mixed to baby's shrills of trepidation followed Lily out of the room and into her bedroom. She quickly grabbed her wand and James' which she tossed at him on her way down to the kitchen. The man caught it expertly with skills that betrayed his experience as a chaser and carried on explaining to his son how exactly they would wake "Uncle Padfoot".
Lily entered her little kitchen and set out to work. Manoeuvring her way around the counter, chairs and the pans hanging from the ceiling, the redhead started to cook breakfast. She was better off occupying her mind with something productive. Eggs and bacon strips began to fly in the air and a comforting sizzle soon filled the room.
Their cottage in Godric Hollow was small to say the least, cramped and modest at best, but it was homey and more importantly it was theirs.
Lily had only just flipped her first pancakes when she heard the fireplace flare behind her. The clinking of claws against the floor reached her ears and before she had the chance to say anything, a blurry mass of fur ran past her, almost knocking her off her feet as it charged through the kitchen, zigzagging around her legs.
"Sirius Black! If you dare break anything in my house, I will make you regret the day you were born," yelled Lily.
Bark that sounded suspiciously like laughter was the only answer she got in response. Soon, more screams and guffaws could be heard from the floor above. As the din came to an end, Lily stopped in the middle of pouring more pancake batter in the pan. Turning her head towards the ceiling, she squinted, disbelieving.
As on cue, the cat began to screech and its howls of distress were followed by lots of yelping and shouting. Lily rolled her eyes at the shriek of: "Leave poor Mittens alone Pads!" that came from an obviously amused James.
Someone then charged down the stairs. Understanding Sirius wasn't quite done breaking havoc, Lily decided to take matters into her own hand and grabbed her wand. When the bear-like dog rounded the corner however, the redhead wasn't quick enough and the hex she sent hurling into the animagus' way went right over his head. Unperturbed, Padfoot continued his mad run and went straight at her.
The woman raised her hands in the air in a surrendering gesture. "Sirius, don't.. Don't!"
In a blink of an eye, Lily was staggering back as the dog jumped up and rest its paws against her shoulders, licking her face copiously while wagging its tail happily.
"Damn it, you idiot! That's gross! Get off me, you filthy animal!" she rasped, spitting out a mouthful of black hair.
Claws then became nails and muzzle turned to nose. Lily now had her face stuck into a man's shoulder, her forehead tickled by strands of his charcoal hair.
"My, my.. Evans! Such a vulgar language coming out of such a petite and pretty young mother." His grey eyes twinkled as he wiggled his eyebrows and bent slightly over so their face could be at the same level.
"I believe it's Potter now," she answered giving him a slight pat on the cheek. Looking him over, she added: "Gosh, Sirius. Remind me to tie you to a chair later on and cut that mane of yours."
Sirius burst out laughing and leaned against the counter, looking as if he owned the place. "You've become a mother all right, haven't you Mrs. Potter? Ladies happen to love my hair that way, thank you very much." He ran a hand through his locks for emphasis and sent a blazing smile her way.
"Oi. Watch just who you're flirting with, you mutt. That'd be my wife!" James was standing in the doorframe holding up a fully awaked Harry. Both man and baby were staring at them; James, with his features contorted in mock irritation, and Harry, with a look of pure concentration on his face as he conscientiously chewed his fist. The contrast of their expression was made even more comical by the fact they both looked so similar in appearance, what with the messy, black mop of hair and the red shirts they wore.
Lily's heart swelled at the sight of them. She felt giddy, not yet quite believing her luck. She could not help it, these two boys meant the world to her.
Why would anyone want to put an end to her happiness was beyond her.
The smile that had exploded out of Lily as soon as her husband and child had entered the room faltered and she turned back to the stove. "Why don't you all go in the living room, I'll be right behind you. I'll make tea. We can eat later on, the day has barely begun," she called over her shoulder, trying to sound more confident than she felt.
"Lily?" asked James uncertainly.
That man was way too perceptive for his own good, Lily decided.
Sirius and him must have shared a understanding glance at each other behind her back for, a few seconds later, James left the room, taking a gurgling Harry with him. Lily focused on casting on static charm on the food to keep it warm and on putting a kettle on the fire as to avoid Sirius' gaze, which she felt boring holes in the side of her face.
"You know," said Sirius after a while. "You could just let it go. I hardly think James isn't already aware of how much you're scared for the both of them. He feels the same. There's no point pretending."
"And let that homicidal maniac win? I'd rather..." Lily stopped abruptly and swallowed hard, hand curling around her wand and gripping it so tightly her knuckles turned white.
"That's stupid and you know it. Of course you're scared Evans! We all are. Hell, I'm scared shitless!" pressed Sirius. Lily looked at him doubtfully, biting on her lower lip to prevent it from quivering. The man's eyes were wide. "Trying to suppress your feelings and feeling guilty about them is not going to do anyone any good."
Lily managed a shaky laugh. "Since when have you start making any sense Black? You're not going to turn all philosophical on me, are you?" she choked out.
She had intended to make it sound somewhat funny, but now her pathetic attempt at a joke only made feel even more depressed. Lily felt like slapping herself.
"Well, I had a pretty good teacher, hadn't I?" pursued Sirius, honorably trying to help her save face.
The whistle of the kettle took them both by surprise. Immediately, the woman rushed to take a hold of it and remove it from the heat. Summoning three teacups, she began pouring the hot liquid. As she did so, her nerves failed her and her hand started to shake. Tea was spilled and before she could do even more of a mess, Lily put the kettle back and rested her hands on the counter.
"It's just.. Imagine that.. What if, despite everything I do, he still got to them," sobbed the witch. Head bent down, she felt a tear leaving her eye and run down the length of her nose until it reach its tip. "What if they get ki... hurt?"
"That is not going to happen. They're going to be fine," told her Sirius, point blank.
Lily sniffed and swiped her face angrily with the back of her hand. She could not believe she was acting like such a wuss. "How can you even say that? You don't know what's going to happen. You don't.." cried the woman in despair.
"I won't let it come down to that."
His confidence was astounding and on the verge of morphing into foolishness.
One day, his arrogance would have him killed and it made Lily mad.
"Stop saying such reckless things! We're not at Hogwarts anymore. You can't go around making promises you cannot keep," spat Lily, despite herself.
"I'm not," replied Sirius raising his voice as well. Realising he was losing his cool, the man closed his eyes for a second. When he opened them once again, they held none of the oncoming storm that had threatened to fall. On contrary, his iris had reverted back to the calm grey tones of the ocean on a windy day. "I'm not 'cause I know I'll have you by my side. Between the two of us, we'll manage to keep them away from harm. You'd rather die than let your child endangered, right?"
It was a rhetorical question but Lily nodded nonetheless.
"And I would lay down my life for him," continued Sirius. "As for James... Well, James will be alright as long as Harry is safe and that you stand by him."
Lily's heartache had still not been subdued. "That's what I'm afraid of though. What will happen if I'm gone? Will you help him carry on? Because someone will have to help him keep his head above the water if I get killed or if.."
Sirius' face had gone pale and a stubborn look had took over his features. "Not gonna happen."
Lily was getting irritated. He couldn't keep burying his head in the sand. "This is a war, Sirius" the woman said wearily.
"Listen here, Evans," he said pointing a finger to her face. "You're like the little sister I never wanted, okay? I'm not about to let you slip away so easily."
Whatever Lily was about to say died in her throat as she stared at Sirius in shock. As the silence stretched, the dog animagus seemed to grow more and more self-conscious, only now comprehending the weight of his words.
For family was a sticky subject for Sirius and rare were those he acknowledged as friends, even less siblings.
Unable to stand the awkwardness anymore, the wizard mumbled something unintelligible, shuffled his feet and then turned around, grabbing Lily's wrist in the process. As he dragged her in direction of the living room, clearly putting an end to their heart to heart, Lily beamed in happiness.
As they were about to pass the threshold, Sirius halted and gestured to Lily to remain silent. Frowning at the quietness of the room, the woman peeked inside.
Illuminated by the lights decorating the tree, which stood in the corner, two figures could be seen sitting in front of the couch. James sat cross-legged on the carpet with Harry tucked against his belly. The infant was following the lines on James' palm with his tiny, pudgy hand with an air of absolute seriousness that seemed a little odd on his soft features. As for James, the man was contemplating his hands with as much focus as his son, like he was seeing them for the first time.
Lily smiled. Whatever the future might bring, this made up for it.
"Well, looks like you got yourself one amazing family there, Lils," murmured Sirius softly.
"It's a pretty amazing family we have indeed, Pads."