For Carrie… it was a pleasure to final meet her, and it will be more of a pleasure to get to know her, I have a feeling.
Rain at Hogwarts had always seemed different somehow. Gentler… less harsh, maybe. It didn't have the insensitive, high pitched, pounding feel of the rain of the rest of England. At least, that's how it seemed to Lily, and she took comfort in its tentative rhythms and quiet melodies.
The Charms classroom was deserted, except for her. She liked the solitude, the way the room seemed much bigger without the hustle and bustle of the students moving this way and that -- sending pillows, cushions, or feathers flying, grabbing books from the shelves, or moving from desk to desk to gossip with members of other Houses. The thing that was the best about this quiet in particular was that she could hear the rain.
Quill in hand, she sat in one corner, pondering an essay that she still hadn't got just right. The wording, the phrasing… something was off. Since it wasn't sheer perfection, it irked her. She could finish it later. The essay was only a pretense, an excuse, to sit by herself and be alone, completely alone, and yet busy, so that the memories didn't come slamming up against her mind, assaulting her in front of people and making it impossible to maintain her dignity.
Her dignity was maybe the one thing she had left.
It was funny. She was a good witch, skilled in Charms, with an aptitude for the work that most students never acquired, and she had the potential to be one of the most recruited pupils out of her class at Hogwarts. She knew basic Healing Charms, and could do some advanced medical work when called upon, but all the magic in the world could not have saved her mother.
The rain tapped out a light, but somehow sad melody that seemed to suit her mood just fine. She was in the mood to be lonely and miserable, and so was the rain.
If her friends could see her, could watch her now, they would probably worry, then let loose one of their schemes to cheer her up. These usually involved boys and large quantities of Butterbeer – things Lily wasn't much interested in, at least in that combination.
Her mother had liked the rain. Lily smiled faintly. Rose Evans had liked just about everything… not much got her down. Lily wished she had some of that quality, but she was a natural realist.
From down the corridor, she could hear the boys' voices rising above the silence and disturbing her. She rolled her eyes and sighed. Why was it so difficult to get even one hour of solitude and quiet?
"Bloody rain. I can't believe Hooch cancelled all Quidditch practices today. It's not really that bad…"
"Come now, Padfoot. It was nearly driving holes into us."
"Quit your whining, Moony. You're happier inside with a book, is all."
"That's not true, I…"
"Yes it is."
Something in the back of Lily's neck pricked up when she heard the last voice. It was the unmistakable voice of James Potter, a boy for whom she had little to no respect, to the amazement of her classmates. At least, that's what she liked them to think. It was easier to pretend disdain than to admit, even privately, what she really felt for the black-haired boy who was the darling of the school.
"Whatever you want to believe," Remus Lupin shot back, and chuckled lightly. "You're probably right, anyway."
"I'm always right," Sirius Black agreed good naturedly, and slung his arm around his good friend's shoulders. "Now, the question that remains to be answered, gentlemen, is what we are to do with this fine opportunity so charmingly handed to us."
"Opportunity?" The high, squeaky voice of Peter Pettigrew gave Lily pause for a moment.
"Yes, opportunity, my good friend Wormtail, and we are going to seize it with both hands."
"This sounds like the makings of another half-baked and ill-advised adventure to me," Remus Lupin muttered. "I'm all for it!"
"Excellent. So we're all in, then?" Peter squeaked, and Remus nodded. "Well, James, are you in or not?"
For some reason, James hesitated a minute, and found himself unwilling to leave with his friends. "Well…"
"Come on, Jamesie-boy, have a little adventure with us. You're not going soft, are you?"
"No, I'm not." The voice of James was quiet and steely. "There's something I need to do…"
"I've never known you to be forgetful. What is it?" Remus asked carefully, knowing he treaded shaky ground.
"I don't know, exactly," James mumbled, and then took a step towards the Charms classroom.
"Are you feeling all right, mate?"
"I'm fine. I just…"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm fine. Let's go."
The voices disappeared down the hallway, and Lily breathed a sigh of relief. She just wasn't ready to take on James Potter given the mood she was in.
The essay sat half-completed in her lap. Still, she couldn't bring herself to make any move to finish it. She hadn't felt this gloomy or alone since October, when everything had gone wrong.
Time passed slowly, as Lily allowed her mind to retread paths it already knew well. Things like "I should have…" and "I could have…" kept running through her mind, and she tried to stop them, because she knew how useless they were.
Today was the seven-month anniversary of her mother's death, and the aching inside hadn't lessened any. If anything, it had grown worse, since her sister's emotional abandonment. She couldn't forgive Petunia for disappearing the one time she had ever really needed a sister.
"Being alone won't help, you know," a sad voice said from the doorway. "In fact, it might be causing more pain than you think."
Lily looked up, startled. "Professor McGonagall?"
"It's me," she said with a smile, and crossed the room. "Busy with homework, I see."
"Yes, it's better than doing nothing," Lily said softly, and closed the textbook she hadn't been paying much attention to, anyway.
"What a beautiful day…" Professor McGonagall commented, and walked to the windowsill. "I have always, always, loved the rain."
"There's just something soothing about continuity of it," Professor McGonagall continued.
"It doesn't really matter if it's falling soft or hard," Lily agreed. "It never really seems to change, but yet, at the same time, it's never exactly the way it was before."
"Hmm," Professor McGonagall said. "My husband, he liked the rain as well. We used to sit in the parlor, the two of us, with our warm mugs of tea. He'd read his beloved newspaper and I'd settle down to write a paper or read a good book."
"My mum would run outside when it was raining," Lily said, breaking the silence and surprising even herself, "and she would dance around in the puddles, and then she would shout for us to come with her, and we'd hop in the car, and we would just drive… maybe into town, to get ice cream, or maybe out into the country to look at the fields."
"You won't forget her," Professor McGonagall said after a time. "I promise you won't. My own dear mother passed on… oh, I suppose it would seem a long time to you young folks, but it's only the blink of an eyelash to me. I can still remember her… I can still hear her voice in the back of my head. Particularly when I'm doing something I'm not entirely sure she would approve of.
"But then there are other times, and I'm sure you have them to, my dear, when I feel as though she's back in the room with me, and all I have to do is raise my voice, and there she'll be, and she'll know exactly what to do, and how to do it."
Lily's eyes filled with tears. "Oh, but I don't want her to be gone. I want her back…" To her own great horror and shame, the tears spilled over and cut tracks across her cheeks.
Professor McGonagall, who had until now been standing on the other side of the room, crossed quickly to her, and gathered her up into her arms. "I know, my dear, I know."
Lily tried to stop the sobs from coming, but her own body revolted against her, and she began to hiccup loudly.
"Oh dear," she began to mutter over and over again.
"It's quite all right," Professor McGonagall reassured her, and finally she was quiet.
"Thank you," she muttered after the tears had stopped and the pain and eased somewhat.
"You're quite welcome, Miss Evans," Professor McGonagall said and then rose to her feet. "Are you going to be all right now?"
"Yes, Professor, I believe I will be."
"That's good. That's very good. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a meeting with the other staff members. I believe we'll be discussing the highly interesting subject of whether or not to allow students to use sugar quills in the classroom."
Lily laughed. "I wish you the very best of luck with that, Professor."
As Professor McGonagall turned to go, she said over her shoulder, "Oh, and by the way, Miss Evans, I do believe Mr. Potter has left something for you out in the corridor."
Lily raised her eyebrows. "For me?"
"Yes, for you. If I'm not mistaken, I think you'll enjoy this very much. Good afternoon, Ms. Evans."
"Good afternoon, Professor."
With that, Professor McGonagall turned to leave again, and smiled to herself a little as she walked down the corridor, though she made a mental note to keep a close eye on Lily Evans.
Curiously, Lily tiptoed out the room, feeling as though someone were watching her. However, when she turned about, there was no one around.
"I wonder," she muttered, and looked around again. "Well, it can't be all that dangerous," she said aloud. "Oh, goodness. I must be crazy, talking to myself… Oh."
On the other side of the corridor there was a bright red and gold package. Delighted despite herself, Lily crossed to it eagerly.
She noticed the card, and, having her mother's good manners drilled into her from the time she was a little girl, she read it first.
On a day that's tough enough as it is, don't let the rain get you down.
Lily bit her lip and nearly giggled, but stopped herself. "Lily Evans, you're beginning to be positively ridiculous."
"I don't think so," James said, emerging seemingly from the woodwork.
"James!" Lily covered her heart with her hand. "You nearly scared me to death."
He grinned at her, and stuck his hands in his pockets. "Well, go on, open it."
"How do I know it won't… explode or something?"
"You have my solemn word, madam. It will not explode, or something."
Lily laughed, despite herself. "Well, then. Are you sure it's safe?"
With trembling fingers, she opened the package. Inside of it was a blue umbrella… an almost outdated item, thanks to water repellant spells, but Lily understood the meaning.
At that moment, when Lily's eyes met James, she realized then something that changed her life forever: James Potter had a heart.
And that has made all the difference…