Author's Notes: In the summer of 2003 I started writing my first Harry Potter fanfic, "Preludes," which was about the events in the Marauders' lives that lead up to the infamous "Prank." I hadn't finished reading OotP when I started it, so some of the characters were not written quite right, but I ended up still a little attached to my characterizations of MWPP and Lily and kept them the same when I started writing this sort of spin-off of the fic in the beginning of 2004, a story about the after-effects of Sirius's prank. I knew all along it is just about the least "marketable" kind of fanfic I possibly could have written: dreadfully long, not dirty enough to hold a lot of the typical kind of fic readers' attention, focusing on relationships with original characters nobody else cares about and might as well be Mary Sues (never mind if they don't stay together in the end and the romance isn't the point), and with some of the characters almost unrecognizably OOC. I could hardly get anyone to start reading it.
But still I liked the story, and I wanted to finish it, even if nobody but my sister would ever read the whole thing. There was a point in time when I seemed to have lost motivation to keep writing it and honestly didn't think I would end up finishing it. But I guess it wouldn't leave me alone; there were a lot of things I had left open and hanging at the place I stopped. I vowed that I would finish the thing before the release of DH, worried that the final book would make the whole thing suddenly not even near canon. But that date came so much sooner than I expected, and at 2:00 AM on July 22 there was only one scene left in this fic I had to write and I was sitting with the book in my hands. I read four pages, but for some reason just couldn't get completely into it. I put it down for a while and finally realized that maybe I just didn't feel ready because I hadn't finished "Requiems" like I wanted to. So feeling like I'd gone out of my mind, instead of reading the new Harry Potter I wandered to the computer and wrote fic instead.
And here it is, in all its completely-un-canon-but-at-least-FINISHED glory. If you are reading this and have actually followed this fic all the way through to the end, I seriously love you. :) Thank you.
The next day brought the beginning of a slow, leisurely weekend. Possibly out of some sensitivity to most people's inability to concentrate on schoolwork quite as well as usual, many of the teachers had been giving less work lately, so many students found themselves not having much to do that Saturday. Most decided to enjoy the warmer weather outside, and in the afternoon that day the Gryffindor common room was sparcely inhabited and quiet, filled only with the low murmering of speech between small groups. The five friends were all occupying the same couch; James was lying lazily across Lily's lap, Sirius was sitting on the back of the couch with his feet behind James's legs, Peter was sitting on the floor leaning back against it, and Remus was squeezed in next to Lily. Yvette Doisneau was sharing a large chair with Will Bell near them.
"So is your family doing okay, Lily?" Remus asked, for she had gotten her second letter from her parents that week delivered to her that morning in the Great Hall, but for some reason had put it away and refrained from reading it right away. He could only assume she had read it in private by now.
"Huh?" Lily responded absently, like she didn't understand what would make him ask that. But then she answered vaguely, "Oh, yes, they're fine. Pretty shocked by this whole thing, of course, but all right."
"Has Petunia had the braces taken off yet?" Sirius asked lightly. "Or does she want to keep them to make more designs on the wall?"
All the boys laughed. James felt Lily's stomach stay still and could tell she wasn't laughing for a reason; he sat up from her lap and looked up at her, but she didn't meet his gaze.
The others seemed to catch onto this, for they stopped laughing and got respectfully quiet again. After a while Will said, "Hey, Sirius, why don't you put some music on? You haven't been playing your records much for a while."
Sirius's face slowly lit up a little, like he couldn't believe the thought hadn't already occured to him. Not needing any more convincing, he lifted his legs over the over side of the couch and slid off of the back. He walked over to where his turntable still sat on its endtable, something about its appearance speaking of neglect even though it certainly wasn't close to gathering dust. And a moment later his friends heard the needle placed down, and a mellow song by the Association started to play. Will said something quiet into Yvette's ear and then they got up and went to a corner of the room. They circled their arms close around each other and started swaying slowly to the music with their cheeks together and their eyes closed.
James put his arm around Lily's shoulders and she knew he was going to ask her if she wanted to dance, too. But when she turned her face to look at him, something in her eyes stopped him.
"Are you all right?" he asked quietly.
She nodded again, more assuringly. "I just need to go for a walk around the grounds."
He knew somehow that she meant by herself.
"Then I want to talk to you," she said. "Come and look for me in half an hour."
James smiled and looked at his watch. "I'm counting."
"Then I want to fly around the Quidditch pitch with you," she said. "And then I want to dance with you later when we're alone."
"Shall I think of some items to add to that list while you're gone?"
"If you wish," she said with a giggle. Then she kissed his cheek, rose from the couch and left the common room.
The slow song ended, and as soon as the next started Sirius seemed to have decided that record wasn't working out for him and changed it to something louder. On came the same song he had played at full volume to wake up everyone in James's house on New Year's Day. Recalling that morning immediately brought a smile to James's face.
"Moony!" Sirius said in a loud, grabbing voice that made Remus's shoulders jump. "Get up! Today you're going to learn how to do the mashed potato."
"On no-" Remus protested feebly as he was grabbed by the arm and pulled up from the couch by Sirius.
James laughed hard. He knew enough about Muggles from his father's family to know that it would be quite unusual for any Muggle to dance the mashed potato to this kind of music, but he decided not to spoil Sirius's fun or his own that he would have from watching this by telling him so.
And indeed, it was great to watch Sirius try to get Remus to start dancing at all.
"Come on, move your hips! Like this!" Sirius said, his hips swooshing from side to side in what was actually a very good demonstration of the dance.
"I am moving my hips," Remus said matter-of-factly.
"Look down at your bloody feet, mate. Do something with them."
"Does this have any purpose?"
"Yes. In Muggle culture, being a good dancer is an absolutely necessary trait a man must exhibit in order to impress and woo a girl."
"And for gorillas, jumping up and down and punching your chest like a complete moron is the same thing, but you aren't suggesting I learn how to do that."
Peter and James laughed. Sirius stopped dancing and puts his hands on his hips. "Oh yeah, what are you implying? That I look like a moron?"
Remus shrugged and Sirius pushed him backward so that his knees bumped against the arm of the couch and he fell backwards into it, and then all of them were laughing.
Suddenly it seemed like a perfectly normal weekend for the moment. William told a dirty joke he'd made up about a vampire shopping in a ladies' robes shop that got five people in the room falling to the floor with laughter. Frank Longbottom was playing Wizard Chess with Polly Prewett and halfway through he got into a loud but friendly argument with her over a move she'd made. After a while Remus said he had a letter he needed to send to his parents, so he left the common room to go to the owlery. Things were winding down and getting more quiet when the record came to a sad song called "Castles Made of Sand," which James felt strangely like he was the only one paying attention to as he sat on the couch looking into the fireplace. The lyrics talked about dreams dying, things that seemed indestructible easily falling apart, and death. Even over the sound of everyone talking, it filled the room like a requiem that demanded attention and respect for those lost.
Death was always hovering over everyone even in these moments that seemed normal. But it was now more an ackowledgement of the deaths to come that haunted James the most, not the ones that had already happened.
He looked to the side at Sirius and Peter, who were also staring in the fire with blank, tired expressions, like all of their playing around from earlier had tired them out. James looked at his watch, and then he stood up to leave.
When Lily reached the first floor, she saw that the doors going outside at the end of the long corridor were open, filling this part of the castle with more bright light than usual. Many students, she saw, seemed to be coming inside or on their way out. Her mind went to the matter that had been on her mind all day, and that thought made her reach into her bag to get out the letter she had gotten from home that morning. While she was distracted looking for it, she didn't see the trails of water and mud on the floor from students coming in from outside, and gasped when she slipped on a wet spot and started falling forward.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw someone who had just been walking past rush toward her and just in time, he was able to catch her. Lily looked up at who it was and nearly gasped again.
Snape looked just as shocked, seeming to feel disoriented and like he wasn't sure how he had ended up in this position now. As if suddenly appalled by their closeness, he practically threw Lily off of him and immediately looked away from her face, darting off to keep walking the way he had been headed at a much faster pace than before.
Her eyes wide, Lily watched him walking away for a few seconds and then ran after him.
"Severus," she said once she'd caught up to him.
As if he hadn't heard her, he just kept walking.
"What do you want, Evans?" he said, turning to her with a vexed expression.
She just looked at him a moment, her shoulders visibly rising with her breaths. Then she just shook her head as if in great disappointment. "I don't understand you," she said. "How can someone so inherently decent act so cruelly? And you must not even have the faintest idea how much harm your actions have meant for my friends."
"You mean how much harm they have brought upon themselves?" he asked. "All I did was tell Sophia the truth."
"You don't even know the truth. Not entirely. For God sakes, she was your friend before. And you used her to get back at Sirius in a completely insensitive way. She really loved him, you know."
"Would it have been better if she learned about it later?" he demanded of her.
That stopped Lily. She stared at him like she was now noticing something she didn't know how she'd missed before.
"You didn't only do it for your selfish revenge," she said quietly. "That's just what you'd like me to think. You didn't want her with someone who's no good for her. You did it out of caring for her."
Snape just smirked at her mockingly. "You are so insipidly weak, Evans. You cannot face and accept the way things really are. You see only what you want to in people."
"As do you!" she said back angrily. "To still despise James and all who are associated with him so much after all this time when he risked his own life to save yours. He may not be perfect, but he is not who you think he is."
"I will leave it up to you to look past Potter's tremendous flaws. But someone, after all, must still ackowledge them."
She smiled at him just a little, and it suddenly felt like they were in some kind of battle of wit; he had a bit of a point. Snape, however, looked at her as unpleasantly as ever.
"I'm just scared for you, Severus," Lily admitted. "Very bad things are coming our way. There is going to be a possibly devastating war. I just hope you won't end up on the wrong side."
Snape stepped a little closer to her, his face very serious. "This world is not divided the way you think it is, Evans. Believe me when I say I would much rather be on any other side than the same as Black and your good-for-nothing piece of filth of a boyfriend."
Lily stared into his eyes, her face falling into a dark frown. As she started to look a little sad, Snape's face changed as well, looking vaguely uncomfortable. Then Lily turned and started walking back toward the doors. Snape watched her go for only a couple seconds before he turned to leave as well.
James found her outside sitting on a large rock by the lake where he now remembered she and him had shared a significant moment in the days they had started to fall in love. She was holding a letter in her lap, but not reading it; she had already read over it several times.
When he sat next to her, she looked up at him with a kind of smile that was very warm but still hinted at a feeling of sadness. She reached up and touched his face, and he leaned over and kissed her softly. When they broke apart, he looked down at the letter and asked, "Are you okay?"
She nodded. "Yeah. I think so." She held up the letter for a second. "It's from Petunia."
James hadn't known that her sister had written her, and this surprised him. "What does she have to say?"
She took a moment to answer, and he could tell from the look in her eyes it was nothing good to hear. "I wrote my mum and dad and her and told them I might be interested in joining the Order of the Phoenix, and explained what that's all about. But she wrote me back herself and said that she thinks I'm being crazy and selfish for making myself so vulnerable when things are this dangerous. She thinks I should be considering how...me fighting against this powerful dark Wizard could put my family in danger." She looked down at the letter, clearly upset enough that it was a little difficult to talk about it, and James reached for her hand and clasped it tightly. "Then she goes on about how she never liked all this magic business and it seems insane to still want to be a part of this world when it's obvious now how twisted and dangerous it is, and that I should just see reason and come home and...well, forget all about it."
James took all of that in for a moment. He then asked, "But your parents...they haven't said anything about feeling this way?"
She shook her head. "No. They're very scared for me, of course, but no. I doubt my sister has even shared with them that she is asking me to do this."
James looked forward in thought, and she set the letter aside on the rock and stood up to stare out at the wide, sparkling surface of the lake, crossing her arms pensively. He stood up and joined her by her side.
"The thing is...I almost agree with her. In some ways, I think it would be nice to be able to just forget about it. Wouldn't it be nice if we all could just wake up in our safe beds, in a safe world, and find that all of this was a dream?"
"But what Petunia doesn't understand is that it really doesn't make any difference whether or not I decide to deny that I perhaps have a responsibility to do what I can to help my kind. This war...if we lose, it could affect everybody. And even without...You-Know-Who. Voldemort. Even without him, it's not a completely safe world to live in anywhere. So I may as well stay here, where I've learned to feel at home."
James turned to face her a little. "But if you could go back and get your Hogwarts acceptance letter again, and make that choice again...would you still decide to learn to be a Witch, knowing what price would come with it? Would you maybe even think about not doing it?"
She looked to the side at him, her eyes suddenly full of emotion, and right then they both knew what they were each thinking: if they had never decided to become part of this world, they never would have met each other. It was hard to believe that something about their lives would not have just seemed empty and wrong.
"Oh, James...not for a moment," she said.
Looking at her, James seemed to melt into nothing but intense feelings, and he pulled her to him and held her tightly. "Lily, I love you."
Her eyes were glimmering with some tears as she rested her head close against his chest. "I love you, too."
She pulled back away from him enough to look up into his face, and he leaned down and kissed her, slowly and deeply, for what felt like an unmeasurable amount of time, something that would stretch on for forever even after they were no longer standing here together, even after they both had taken their last breath.
Then Lily pulled back and they just looked into each other's faces, hands still in each other's hair.
"I'm not afraid of what could happen to us anymore," James told her. "If the rest of my life could be short, I don't want to waste any more of it worrying about losing what I have."
Lily nodded, smiling. "Me, too."
Then he said, "I only just now decided I want to ask you this, and this is kind of crazy. But will you marry me?"
Her eyes went side in shock; James grinned widely, laughing a little at himself. Then Lily threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly, which James thought he could assume was a positive answer, and he hugged her back happily, rocking her back and forth.
The sky was burning in a beautiful sunset and the surface of the lake reflected red and gold brightly. Both of them, so full of happiness and love then, felt like they were filled with a warmth and a light that would make it not so hard to go into even the most frightening and dark night. Tomorrow did not matter. There was today.