Title: For What It's Worth
Author: Aelan Greenleaf
Category: Romance, Drama
Summary: Three meetings, two people, one place. The girl and the boy, together and apart. Nothing lasts forever, but at least she remembers when it felt like eternity, when the days were soft, the nights of dark and their love, forever. Lily/James AU
For What It's Worth
"Were you at the game yesterday?
The question hangs in the cool and light autumn air, and she watches an orange leaf complete it's spiral down onto the faded grass. Looking up, she spots the old house in the distance, the walls that screamed and moaned only on the full moon. She sits down, finding a spot among the fallen leaves.
"Maybe. Why does it matter? You're going to tell me about it anyways."
He shrugs; he knows she's right. He folds down beside her, and draws his knees inwards. "No worries, Evans; I know you were there. Did you see me signalling to you?"
She rolls her eyes, but inside she knows that this cocky air, this pompous bragging is an act; a game that they play with each other. "You mean that Wonky Faint thing? Sadly, no; I was reading my book."
"Wronski Feint, Lily! It's a Wronski feint, darling." Now he rolls his eyes, knowing that Quidditch will never be a part of her life.
"Whatever. Wonky, Wronski, it doesn't matter. It's just a bunch of silly boys riding sticks and chasing balls."
James looks over to her. "What about Amelia, and Elizabeth? Aren't they part of the team too?"
And now her eyes meet his. "Ah, yes, but those two are athletes. They're playing Quidditch, not just fooling around and showing off."
Their gazes stay locked and become one long stare. An autumn breeze stirs around them, and suddenly, James grins madly and releases the handfuls of dead foliage he had hidden in his hands, throwing them up into the circuling air. Lily screams as the leaves plunge down suicidily, spearing themselves down into her hair.
"Potter!" she cries, and she tackles him, pinning him to the ground and stuffing leaves down his shirt, giggling all the while.
Playing in the leaves, as the wind joins in, blowing about them, they forget for the moment all the things that they can never forget. The threat of war is ever present; this is the last Hogsmeade visit for the year before the school is locked down. The last moments of ignorant bliss, spent among the autumn leaves; lovers in the remains of summer.
James helps her pull the kamikaze foliage out of her hair as they stand once more, remembering. The sun is low on the horizon; night follows too swiftly. The girl grabs the boy's hand as they make their way out of the old forest, looking one final time to the abadonned shack in the distance, wondering and waiting. The sky would be complete tonight, as the moon filled in. They had to return before the dark.
"James?" she begins, as they leave the trees behind.
She sighs. "For what it's worth, I was watching."
And in the dusk, she sees him smile.
Night was everywhere, between the trees and on the path. The stars were strangely muted, as if the heavens themselves were in a secret mourning. She shivers, involuntary, and clutches his hand all the tighter.
"Lily..." he whispers, quiet but firm.
"No." she responds, even more resilient. "You can't." But the words were futile before spoken, because she knows, and has known, that there is no option, no choice. He has to go.
He grins a wry but sad smile. "Trust me, darling, I don't really want to." He straightens, and stands a little taller. "Dumbledore says there's no other way."
"Send another," she pleads, "Make someone else go. The Order can find someone else."
He looks over, knowing in his heart that she herself has already accepted the inevitable. "Lily..." whispering once more.
Looking away, into the shadow, her tears fall into the pool of black on the dirt below. "What about Harry?" she says, almost not speaking at all.
His heart lurches at the mention of their son. "Don't."
Now it was her turn. "James..."
"I'm doing this for him, for you, for everyone. Bloody hell, Lily, why can't you see that? I don't want to do this; I don't want to fight You-Know-Who!" His voice trails off into the dead night: "I don't want to die."
"You won't." her response is immediate, firm, believed and true.
The grin turns despondent, almost. "You can't promise that, love."
Suddenly, she's in his arms, and he's holding her to him, tight and undying and eternal. The old trees whisper around them, of a forgotten autumn afternoon when they played among the maroon and yellow leaves. And it's here, and it's them, and it's everything.
A red light appears in the sky, past the sombre, disintegrating house in the distance. "I have to go." he tells her.
She lets him out from her embrace. "I love you, James."
He backs up, only a little, only to prepare for what is to come. "I love you too, Lily." He picks up the tin can on the ground, dirty and ignored by those passing by. The seconds take forever.
"For what it's worth, Lily," he begins, and he can feel the tin can warming between his hands, "You should know that I only ever played for you."
And as he disappears, she can feel the tears behind her eyes.
The summer morning is bright and warm; the light filters down throught the brilliant emerald leaves as the sun begins its' climb up into the sky. The air is cool around her, though the day is quickly heating. The girl, who is no longer a girl but a woman, studies the crumbling ruins of the old, 'haunted' house. A memory rises, unbiddenm, into the forefront of her thoughts, but she pushes it away and tries to think of something that will not make her cry.
She sits down onto the fresh, young grass, gently saving a ladybug from what would have been certain extinction. She couldn't delude herself into trying to throw her memories away; this place, this one spot among the ancient trees and the falling leaves, was a place forever frozen in her mind. Tumbling on the ground, laughing, holding hands. Crying as he left, arguing, pretending.
Lily misses him everyday. She misses the way he would mess up his hair, though annoying to no end. She misses the gleam in his eyes while he was planning something truly mischevious. His kiss, his laugh, the way he smiled when he picked Harry up, his subconscious fidgeting when asked an awkward question...
And amid the grass, and the escaping ladybug, Lily feels the tears tug at her eyes as they fall gently to the ground.
There is a call in the distance, a faint, dying horn blow coming from the almost invisible castle in the distance. The Quidditch game will be starting soon, and she had promised Harry that she would be there. After all, it was the final game of the year, and she wouldn't miss her son playing in his last Hogwarts game.
Brushing the dead grass off from the back of her pants, Lily Potter stands, and with one last backward glance, leaves the grove of trees and the flowing breeze that holds so much of her past. Behind her, the patch of grass is still damp with salty tears.
As she leaves, the soothing wind catches her whisper: "For what it's worth, I only ever loved you."