Author's Note: For the lovely Heath RM, on her 18th birthday.
Rock-a-bye baby on the treetop
When the wind blows the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall
Down will come baby, cradle and all
He had always hated that nursery rhyme. He didn't know how children could possibly be lulled to sleep with such morbid words. But then, children's songs have always been the most violent ones, as if the world wanted to corrupt their innocence at an early age.
But his son loved it. It was the only song that made his tiny dynamo's green eyes close in sleep.
James Potter hummed the last few bars as he lowered the small body of his son, Harry, onto the crib. His baby—safe in his cradle.
"Sleep well," he whispered softly as he kissed Harry good night.
He turned towards the chair. Lily had fallen asleep. She had watched Harry the whole day after work and was probably exhausted. Usually, they spent quiet evenings like this chatting in the kitchen over a cup of tea. But tonight, he decided not to wake her.
James descended to the kitchen and brewed a pot for himself. He watched the few people passing by their street. He could see them, but they couldn't see him. The house was charmed to hide them from view and the windows showed a different scene from what was really happening inside. The threat of discovery by Voldemort had forced their young family into hiding.
As he placed his used cup on the sink, James heard a soft rustle. It seemed to be coming from under the kitchen window. If the night hadn't been so quiet he would have missed it.
Curious, he peered into the glass, scrutinizing the back garden cautiously. It could be nothing, but one can never be too careful.
As he watched the backyard, his nose a centimeter away from the pane, a figure rose from the bushes below, causing James to move back in surprise. He covered his mouth to keep himself from yelling as soon as he recognized the person tapping on the window.
It was Lucius Malfoy.
The rich, pureblood wizard was currently standing outside his kitchen, staring unseeingly into the glass, and frantically motioning for someone to let him in.
James didn't even take the time to think it over. Quickly, he threw the window open, hauled Lucius in and closed it as soon as the other man had entered. The whole procedure had taken only three seconds. James checked the garden again. No one had seen them.
Lucius was standing behind him.
"What are you doing here?" James asked coldly. It had been a while since they had last talked.
"I came to warn you. James, he's coming." Lucius' eyes were wide and worried as he uttered those fateful words. James' spirits sank. He didn't need to ask who he was.
"There's a traitor. I don't know who he is but I'll try to find out. But first, you have to get out of here—"
"Why did you come?" James sank into a chair, ignoring the other's words.
Lucius grabbed his shoulders and shook him harshly. "Are you listening to me? The Dark Lord is coming tonight! You have to get out of here. Lily and the boy..."
"I knew he'd come soon. He always does." He looked up at Lucius sadly. "We'll just keep on running."
James looked away. "I'm sick of running."
Lucius stared at him, appalled. "What are you saying? You won't even do anything? You won't even try to escape? James, I risked everything to come here and warn you, please don't throw your family's life away on a whim!"
"They won't die." James said this quietly, with conviction.
"They won't if you move now... Please, James..."
"No. I'll stay." He touched Lucius shoulder, where the ends of his shimmering platinum hair lay turned towards the light. "I'll keep them safe."
Lucius' eyes widened in horror as the full impact of James' words hit him. James Potter meant to stay and die protecting his family, invoking the ancient laws of magic where the power of love powerful enough to deflect a death spell would wound around his wife and son. Very few people knew of this ancient magic. They were only two of the mere handful.
"No... Don't do this," Lucius whispered, kneeling on the floor and dropping his head on James' knees.
"I want to do this." James gently raised Lucius' chin. "It's the only way to stop Voldemort. He'll be destroyed as soon as he tries to hurt Lily, or Harry. Then it'll all be over."
"But I love you."
The words were soft. Barely heard, but understood. It was a plea. One that fell on deaf ears and a bleeding heart.
James stood, pulling Lucius up gently. "Go home to your family, Malfoy. They're waiting for you to return."
The blond stayed still, unwilling to leave. "No. You go. Let me stay. I'd rather die than live knowing you're—"
James shook his head, cutting the other off. "It doesn't work that way and you know it."
He walked across the kitchen, leaving Lucius standing over the table. He entered the living room and sat there, clutching his wand, waiting for the Dark Lord.
But sometimes, even the best laid plans could fail. The warning came too late. He was downstairs when he heard the crash of broken glass and a woman scream.
"Lily! Harry! No!"
James bounded up the stairs, taking three steps at a time. His wife and son were upstairs! Oh God! He came from above! They were upstairs!
Alas! He had come too late. As he ran to the bedroom door, the world exploded in a furious flash of green light. The walls fell into itself and James Potter was thrown into the air, his broken body arching in the night sky before settling on the shattered earth.
The moon shone peacefully down on the wreck of a home, like it always did, and always will.
Only moans answered him. A man lay on the large bed amongst the satin pillows. He was barely recognizable, his head and body swathed in bandages. Already, blood was starting to ooze out of the gauze.
The blond man bit his lip in distress as he painstakingly nursed the others' injuries. He lovingly changed the bandages and bathed the wounds, trying to lessen the pain. What little he knew of healing spells he applied. But the blood always remained—staining him.
He had pulled his angel from the ruins. For days, he had stayed beside James as the injured man remained unconscious. And he intended to stay until James fully recovered.
"I will never leave you."
after some time...
"How old is he now?"
"Fifteen. He's doing well."
James Potter moved the curtains and looked out of the window—a window not much different from the one he had opened a long time ago. The scene outside was one he had seen everyday for fourteen years as he stayed locked inside this opulent home in the middle of the forest.
A willing prisoner.
He stared at the trees, their leaves turning into the vibrant colors of autumn: red, yellow, orange... falling to the ground in a magnificent carpet.
"His sisters turned into trees and wept for him," he whispered, his breath fogging the glass.
"Icarus. He flew too near the sun, melted his wings, fell into a lake, and drowned. His sisters turned into trees by the shore—weeping leaves over their brother's demise."
He turned to his companion, face devoid of expression. His eyes were blank, staring at a scene from a different time.
"I refused to weep for them when they died. I never cried. Not even once all these years." His eyes shifted. "But now, you tell me that my son is alive."
The blond man remained silent. Only the old grandfather clock's ticking could be heard in the quiet room. The sun started to set, casting long shadows on the wooden floor.
They seemed to be waiting for darkness. Moisture pooled in James' eyes and remained there, quietly damning the man he faced. The man who pulled him away from death. The man he had lived with for the past fourteen years.
Everyday, he stayed. Just waiting for him to come. Because he would always return, no matter how long he was gone.
To his savior, he had been a lover and a slave, holding nothing back. Wanting nothing in return.
"Why did you choose to tell me now?"
"I thought you should know."
He felt the familiar touch on his shoulder, the kiss on his neck. He closed his eyes, knowing what would come next.
"Ask me for it, James?" Lucius whispered. "Ask me for your freedom."
The tears slid down his cheeks, dropping into tiny dark dots on his shirt. "I can't."
Lucius smiled. He knew it would make no difference. James was his—for all eternity.
"Why can't you?" He just couldn't resist asking.
The truth was always the most difficult thing to say.
"I love you."
"No one else."
Lucius pulled the robes off him roughly. Bruising him. "You must promise me."
"I will never leave you," James whispered softly. "You're my home."
His cradle. His beautiful prison.
Lucius chuckled, his long blond hair sweeping over both their arms. The silver chains. "That's why I adore you."
James stared at the ceiling, dry-eyed, as he surrendered into the embrace of the devil. He gasped as the familiar bolts of pleasure ran through his body. Sin never tasted so good as it did that day.
After all, even angels lie sometimes.
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