He isn’t Will, but no one is, anymore, and Lyra loves him anyway. He is clever and bold, a professor of experimental theology studying anbaric energy who comes to Jordan for a semester. Lyra had chafed at the request to come to a stuffy dinner for another stuffy visiting professor who would invariably talk down to her, but his waxwing daemon fluttered around Pan and the professor told her about accidentally burning off his eyebrows until both Pan and Lyra were flustered and laughing.
No one is surprised, except perhaps Lyra herself, when he accepts an offer to stay at Jordan for a while longer.
It takes her ages to realize the feeling in her stomach is nervousness when he’s around. More dinners, afternoon walks, time spent together in libraries working separately at the same table, and he has become slowly indespensible to her life. There’s guilt, too, of course—he isn’t Will. But they promised each other they would build the Republic of Heaven where they are, separately, and she thinks Will would like him, anyway.
When she kisses him, on the roof of Jordan above her childhood rooms, she imagines she can see the stars they had ostensibly climbed up to see even with her eyes closed.
She doesn’t tell him everything. How could she? Parts of it seem unreal and fantastic to her, and so much of it is private. But she tells him bits and pieces—her famous parents, her Gyptian friends, the dangerous research she helped to end. Pieces he could know, anyway, if he wanted to research her as thoroughly as he studies currents and circuits. A year goes by, and then two. Lyra doesn’t need the alethiometer to tell her the truth of how he smiles at her, or how it makes her heart soar.
Tired and sweaty, Lyra holds her son in her arms for the first time. His eyes are black, like his father’s.
"We’re calling him Will," she tells him, and he, bless him, agrees.