A/N: Congrats everyone! You've made it to the end of my story. Yes, yessir and yesma'am, it's finally over. It would have been up a bit earlier however - stupid Videotron ...grrr! Cut out on us again. Anyway, long story short, I really hope you have enjoyed this story as much as I loved writing it. To all those who have reviewed, you guys...you really and I mean really pushed me to update. Your feedback is extremely valuable to me, and I want you all to know that I have appriciated it more than I had ever imagined.
Disclaimer: James, the platform, his friends, Lily...they are all JK Rowling's. What belongs to me? The joy I get when I make up stories about them.
Chapter 15 - Ticket '70
Ah yes, the morning of September the first of seventy seven was a very abnormal Thursday. Between the very few occurring silences that were filled with clicks of tongues or rustling of a particular person's hair, there was so much noise filling the Potter Manor that one would think there was actually a family of seventeen living in there. Too bad those people would be thought of as fools.
Eight o'clock and nine o'clock zoomed by. From about nine-thirty on, James helped his mother clean up the enormous mess they had all caused during a quick food fight. She had given the house elves the task of actually cleaning up the food and insisted James endure the punishment of physically having to clean the dishes. It had always been his most heavily disliked chore as a child, and Gwendolyn knew that if she ever wanted to annoy James, all she had to do was ask him to do the dishes.
Well, it worked. James was thoroughly annoyed by the time Gwendolyn had dropped three plates, two knives and fourteen cups (how did they manage to use fourteen cups? They were only five for goodness' sakes!) back into his water on the claim that they weren't "completely clean". James turned to his mother, nostrils flaring and all.
"If you aren't happy, mother, why don't you wash and I'll dry?" He was almost stomping his foot.
"No. I enjoy watching you clean, it's just that you don't do it well enough." She had the look of an innocent three year old that had just gotten scolded for dipping her cookies in milk.
James couldn't stay mad at his mother for long. Not anymore, in any case, and so he turned around, put his gloves back over his hands and against began washing the dishes. The green gloves…the same lime green gloves he had worn in the toilet not too long ago with Lily…
"You miss Lily, don't you son?" A lock of white hair had fallen from behind her ears and she ignored it as she continued to dry the fifth cup he had placed gently back into the rinsing sink.
"Hmm," was his reply. What else was he supposed to say? That he couldn't stand being at home without her? That he felt as though he was walking a tight rope whenever she left his side? Of course he couldn't say that! What would his mother think of him? What would Sirius think of him? What would he think of himself?
Most of all, how would Lily react?
"It's okay, James, we can talk about it. I miss her too. Very much, actually, and she misses us as well." She placed another cup on the counter and picked up the ninth from the sink.
"How do you figure?" He raised a suspicious eyebrow at her while scratching away some sauce that was trying desperately to stain their white dishes.
"She writes to me." The plate slipped from his hand and splashed him in the face as it landed in the water.
How embarrassing. His glasses were rendered useless by the soap duds, his shirt was completely drenched, and the water on the counter was now soaking into his pants. No, no, no, this was not very good at all.
Mrs Potter suppressed a giggle. "Oh James! Such carelessness whenever I speak of Lily. What is it now? Jealousy that she's written to me and not you? Perhaps anger?"
James' eyes grew wide. What was she playing at anyway? Did she want to make him mad? Of course she did! She was his mother! No, no she definitely did not want to anger him, she knew how he got when he became angered. So then, what was it? He faced her, looking at her through white and rainbow coloured soap bubbles. "Why do you say that?"
Mrs Potter stood taller and finally brought the lock of hair that had fallen again behind her ear. "James, oh James my good, sweet, devoted son," she turned back to her dishes. "When will you ever learn?"
He concluded, then, that perhaps he had gotten her playfulness and mischievous personality, but he most certainly did not possess that oddball gene she so prominently showed. Wiping the soap from his glasses, James resumed his task. "Wha' did she say?"
"Oh, you know, same ol' same ol' James. Talking about this and that, Petunia, her friends, how she went shopping and bought –"
"Let me refine my question a bit – did she say anything about me?" He was desperate. They had argued, he had owled her once to apologize again and invite her to the largest prank ever played. She hadn't replied and James figured that was because she was angry with him.
Mrs Potter smiled. "No, not really. She asks how you are and things of tha' nature, but…not really obsessive abou' it, you know? Although, she does oft mention a certain ticket?" James smiled cheekily.
"If you're trying to get it ou' of me, mother, I must warn you immediately of your certain failure. But you'll maybe find out – if, that is, Lily will let you in on it later."
Mrs Potter 'hmmphed' and continued drying.
And then, once all the dishes were put away nicely (Sirius' job), James, Remus, Peter and Sirius were all standing, with trunks, at platform 9 and three quarters. James actually couldn't remember what he did during the time between the dishes and the moment he saw the train before him. It was awkward, as though no time had gone by, yet he knew that some had. Some must have! He flirted with the possibility of it being Sirius' idea of pay back, but when Sirius looked just as confounded as he did, along with Remus and Peter, James knew that it had more or less been the effect of being a seventh year student embarking on this journey for one. Last. Time.
"'Never realised how shiny she was," piped Peter in a tone that was somewhere between completely ecstatic and beyond depressed.
"She is beautiful," echoed Sirius who, for once, was taking Peter's lead.
"And big," added Remus, eyes wide with sorrow and fear.
They all waited for James to say something, to follow the trend, but he didn't – couldn't. He didn't know what to say. Yes, the train sitting there quietly brought some sort of pain within him, but that pain was nothing compared to the nagging at his chest. He was looking for something – someone – else, someone he hadn't seen in far too long.
Sirius cleared his throat. James, annoyed, tried to think of something clever to say. Finally, he managed, "And she's all ours for one last time."
Satisfied with this, the three other Marauders let their eyes fall back over the crowds in front of them. There were many new first years (they got shorter every year!) and just as many parents seeing them off. There were a few other students from this term's second years that James recognized, as well as a few more third, fourth and fifth years. But he didn't really care about any of them right now. He just wanted to see Lily.
"Let's go get ourselves a seat. See you at Christmas, Mum," Sirius turned around and kissed Gwendolyn on the forehead, picking her up and squeezing her as lightly and tightly as he could all at once. Remus almost did the same, although much more kindly and diplomatically. Still, he addressed her as "Mum," as basically anyone who met Mrs Potter did.
Peter smiled weirdly at her, almost as if he realised for the first time just what she looked like. "Your hair is almost purple it's so white, Mumma, you better watch it – might give us some ideas for some lovely jokes –"
"Don't I catch even one of you trying to think about changing my hair colour. That, James will most certainly be glad to inform you, is one of the greatest mistakes a young prankster can think of doing!" And with a quick hug and kiss on either cheeks, Mrs Potter turned to her son – the only one who had her cheeks, her forehead, and her elbows.
"Bye Mum," James said as he dropped his arms around her shoulders and pulled her into a tight hug. He kissed the top of her head and brought his cheeks to that spot. They hugged for a wee bit more, and when she was about to pull away, James whispered in her ear, "Don't hesitate to call on me, okay? I'll be there faster than you can say –"
"Bullocks, James. But I appreciate it. Finally, you're starting to show that sweet gentleman side of you I so struggled to program into you!" She laughed quietly to herself as he stared at her. His mom had just complimented him and insulted him in one breath. She was good!
Soon as she had left, James turned round and resumed his search for the red haired girl he knew was around here somewhere. She was, after all, Head Girl, which meant she had the responsibilities of ensuring everyone got on the train without much effort. James smiled to himself. He was made Head Boy. Of course, he didn't place much attention to it now – he had even forgotten to mention it to his best friends. Why? Well, let's just suffice it to say; he had other people on his mind.
There. He saw her. She was standing in the middle of a group of a handful of girls James recognized as seventh year Gryffindors, along with one or two Ravenclaws, Three Hufflepuffs, and four Slytherins. They were a large group, some were brighter than others, some more physically attractive…James had even dated one of them a couple of years ago for almost a year. But none of them James really saw. He just saw Lily concentrating on what one of the Slytherin girls was saying while trying to discreetly bring her trunk into the train. This was his time now.
Straightening his glasses and mentally reprimanding his stomach and hands for doing flips and getting sweaty (respectively), James walked his way purposefully towards the girl he hadn't seen in only a few weeks.
"Hi there," he said cheerfully as he walked up behind her. The Slytherin girl (who had finished speaking by now) rolled her eyes and turned to the girl next to her.
Lily almost smiled. That almost made him laugh. Almost. "Hi," she said meekly, meeting his gaze with intent in her eyes. "I was hoping that perhaps you can help me with something," she continued, letting go of her trunk.
"Sure. Fire away!" he thrust his left hand in his pocket and scratched a spot on his arm that didn't itch. He had worked hard on trying not to let his hands reach his hair whenever he got nervous and his hard training, apparently, paid off!
Lily looked relieved. "Alright, you see, I got this letter in the mail and it said that I was supposed to be here and all, and I got through to the platform but, I still don't know why I need this ticket!" She took it out. A crinkled yellow ticket, the ink slowly fading away, yet you could still see 'September 1st, 1970 11:00am sharp' written in bold letters somewhere in the centre.
James reached out. "Let me see that," he said. She handed it over to him, curiously and expectedly. "Hmm, yes, well it appears to be telling you that you need to be on the train at eleven sharp. That's in about …. eight minutes and twenty odd seconds."
Lily raised her eyebrow. He was loving this. "Well, I figured that out! But I mean, why? Why this ticket?"
"What about your ticket, Lily?" asked a girl from Ravenclaw.
"Lily? Ah, Lily, my name's James, James Potter," he informed her as he would a stranger, offering her his hand.
Reluctantly, Lily played along (to his relief). "Hullo James Potter, I'm Lily Evans." James could hear voices trailing off as people nudged each other to look at the scene that was unfolding before their very eyes.
"It's an honour to meet you, Lily Evans," he replied with utmost sincerity meanwhile his stomach was still doing back flips. His plan was actually working! Good thing Lily was smart enough to not only catch on but also play along!
"Likewise," she said dubiously.
"Would you like me to introduce you to my friends?" He pointed his head towards the blond chubby boy whose eyes were wide in shock and whose mouth almost hit the gravel, standing beside the brown sandy haired boy whose tired eyes sparkled with interest, who was beside the a dark haired boy who looked as though his dog had returned from the forest with a sick bird clinging onto its tail.
Lily laughed. "Umm, perhaps later. Can we get back to the ticket –"
"FIVE MINUTES EV'RYONE! FIVE MINUTES!"
"Lily, let's go!" Called one girl. Lily turned around and shot her a look that James was sort of thankful he didn't get to see.
"NO. You all go along, I'll be right behind you."
The girls eyed James with …well something in their eyes, something that James didn't even notice as he was too busy getting lost in Lily's green orbs.
"Now, as I was saying, the ticket, kind sir. Why would someone tell me to carry it around with me at all times?"
The platform was emptying itself into the train, parents the only ones really remaining behind, as well as perhaps three other boys, a few random students, and, of course, Lily and himself. He figured it would be the perfect time to finally reveal it. He just felt kind of sad that she'd be disappointed. She probably expected much more than what he had actually planned, but, she had said herself, that she preferred attempts rather than full fledged happenstances. He was dwelling on this, depending on this more than he felt comfortable to.
"Well, actually, Miss Lily, I wonder if you've noticed the date on your ticket."
"September the first, yes, of course I noticed the date," her voice was quick, abrupt, and almost held a trace of disbelief. After all, it wasn't every day that someone asked her such a simple question that half accused her of not being perceptive.
"Yes, but, that's not it –"
"Nineteen Seventy. Yes, September the first, nineteen seventy. Now, what about this date?"
James smiled a private smile that was intended only for himself, though Lily reddened at it. "Well, I remember that day – not every single detail of it – but I do remember that, on that day, I was standing," he turned around, "over there," he pointed to the spot where his mother had seen him off onto the train and turned to face Lily once more, "and I was about to get on this train for the first time. Ever. And, you know, I was a bit weary abou' it, I mean, I was nervous –"
"THREE MINUTES PEOPLE! THREE MINUTES!"
"as I think everyone else around me was." Beat. "And, what about you?"
Lily thought a bit. "Well, I got on the train immediately, actually. My parents stood right over there," she pointed in the opposite direction James had, "and they kept waving at me." Her eyes grew softer, yet she still held that expecting look as well.
"Hmm, that's interesting."
"Well, we were standing in opposite places. You were at the front of the train, I was somewhere near the back."
"So?" she raised her eyebrow at him again.
"Well, isn't that sort of how we spent the rest of our years? You in one place, me in a completely different one." He wasn't only talking physically, but also mentally, emotionally…He had been immature, she had been mature; he had had the most obvious crush on her, she had resented him with a passion; he was always getting a detention, she was soon enough giving detentions. They were opposites. She was a girl, he was a boy.
Seeing the look on Lily's face, James knew she had caught on to the symbolism. How very unlike him, he thought, to incorporate symbolism in his every day speech.
"TWO MINUTES PEOPLE! TWOOOO MINUTES!"
"I see." Her eyes went wide for a brief moment. He wondered what it meant. Probably something along the lines of 'we have to get back on that train!'
"This ticket," he chuckled as her lips parted into the widest grin he'd ever seen, "is somewhat of…how can I put this, a sort of promise, I guess." He extracted his wand from his butt pocket and tapped the piece of parchment thrice, adding a new date underneath the old one. "This ticket marked the beginning of my life as a true wizard – it marked the first time I was heading to Hogwarts! And now, now it marks something completely different but just as – more important I think. It marks the beginning of a life at your side instead of over there," he pointed again to the spot he had stood in seven years' prior, "and you there," he pointed over to the spot she had moments before.
"ONE MINUTE! HURRY IT UP, PEOPLE, YOU'RE GOING TO MISS THE BLOODY TRAIN!"
James merely smiled. "So you see, Lily, it's really important that you hold on to this ticket. Crucial to the survival of what we have – what I want to share with you. Not that I'm saying that if you lose it I won't be beside you, but rather, if you lose sight of what it signifies…"
He was cut off by her pouncing on him, throwing her arms around him and pulling him into the tightest most strongest clutches he had ever experienced. It felt good, though, to have the air squeezed out of his lungs by Lily Evans' hug. He grinned foolishly now, forgetting that a few parents were now staring at him and the red head in his arms, ignoring the fact that they had probably heard everything he had said to her.
"James, I – I never expected this from you!" her grip didn't relent. Her voice was giddy – something he wasn't used to hearing from Lily Evans. Especially not in her school robes.
"Neither did I," he answered quite honestly. He hadn't even had to plan out what the ticket meant – that part had come on its own. No, the most difficult part of this entire operation was pulling it off without sounding too corny. He hoped he had done it well enough for her.
She laughed as she finally pulled away. He wrapped his arms around her waist and let his hands clasp together resting in her lower back. She brought her hands up to his face and he smiled – grinned – even more foolishly than before. "I promise James that I will never let it go. Never ever ever ever ever," she leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips.
"Good. All that and fifteen seconds to spare!" he said as he took her hand and flicked his wand towards her trunk, levitating it through a door.
"TEN SECONDS PEOPLE! COME ON! GET ON THE BLOODY TRAIN ALREADY!"
James levitated his own trunk into the train, holding Lily's hand, completely oblivious to the fact that no one was left on the platform – not even his trusted three – except for the unfamiliar faces of countless first and second year parents.
As they stepped up onto the train, Lily ran her hand down James' arm and kissed him softly on the cheek. "You know, James Potter, you have an incredible sense of time, an impeccable ease with which you handle very nerve-wracking situations, an unimpeachable sense of confidence and –"
"I have the best smile in the world?" He teased.
"Uh, no. That's not quite what I was going to say."
"Nope. Not that either."
James pursed his lips to the side as he thought. "I'm obtrusive handsome and romantic?"
Lily shook her head. He loved the look on her face. "No, no, that's not quite what I was thinking."
"Then what?" he asked as he held on to support her while the jerk of the train starting off threatened to knock them off their feet.
"I was going to say that, your sweaty hands are actually your most attractive trait at this present moment."
James blushed as he opened the door to the Prefect's compartment. He cursed his hands for allowing sweat to break through the pore barrier. "Why's that?"
"It's just a breath of fresh air, that's all," she walked into the compartment holding on to his hands.
Well, James chose to not ponder too hard on what she had just said, for he was now confronted with twenty four pairs of eyes opened wide in astonishment. "Erm – Hullo. I'm ahh, err – I'm James Potter, err, the new Head Boy…" he trailed off as knots turned and churned his stomach.
The look on everyone's face – Remus included – told James that yes, this year would be, by far, one of the most interesting years of his short life.
A/N:So this is it, guys! I hope you loved it, and I'm super sorry if this was too sweet or corny or whatever, fluff I believe we call it. Anyway, I'm super sad to have to say goodbye to James and Lily...awww
I am flirting excessively with the idea of continuing on, I just need to know if it's worth it - that is, will you be interested in reading more from this story or would you rather read other things? Please let me know so that I can develop the idea in my head further.
Ciao for now!