It's not mine; it's J.K. Rowling's.
Color, Light, Reverse
The sun beat down on the outside world, hot and blinding, but James Potter didn't know or care. He hadn't been outside and he didn't plan on going. He was lying on cold hard stone, the floor of a rarely used hallway that shared a common wall with the kitchen in his once welcoming home. The cold was seeping through him, freezing him, and he welcomed the feeling gratefully, wishing it could freeze his mind as well and make him forget his complete and utter despair.
James' arms twitched above his head, voicing a protest to their long stillness. His fingers gripped at the floor reflexively and James felt as if he was trying to claw his way out of a bottomless pit. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, telling himself that this act would somehow make things clearer, calmer. It didn't work.
He pushed himself onto his elbows, knowing that he needed to get up now or he would risk never moving again. He mentally fought the urge to collapse back on the floor, but his heart wasn't in it. Somehow he managed it, though, and he maneuvered himself up against the wall of the hallway, also stone, also cold. He hugged his knees to his chest as the quiet voices in the kitchen echoed in his mind. No, it wasn't the voices that were echoing. It was the shrill cries of his little cousin Jenny that were echoing. The quiet voices, they just stifled.
James let out another shuddering breath. He didn't want them, his family, to see him like this. He had to be strong, not just for himself, but also for them. Gods, he was the head of the family now; it was his responsibility to take care of them. It was his duty. He wasn't ready for this. How had things gone so wrong? Ten members of the Potter Family gone, wiped out, murdered, all in one terrible day. They were all dead. He'd never see them again. Never … the word was so final. He was the only male left in his family. He was bound by blood and love to protect his family, to keep them safe. There were so many of them. So many widows, sisters, crying women, all women – and not a single man left, except him.
It had been so well planned, the attack. Voldemort had known where every single one of them would be. Every last one. He'd taken no chances either. He'd left no possibility of missing a male heir. He'd killed Jeff's wife because she was pregnant, even though no one knew what sex the baby was going to be… the baby had been.
Two days ago, only two days, James had chosen to do something unplanned. Instead of coming home for lunch with his parents, he'd decided to go hiking with Sirius and Remus far into the woods … all day. He'd only told his mother. They'd had a good time, the Marauders. Laughing, horse playing, enjoying that feel of being brothers in everything except blood. Then the nightmare had begun.
The Dark Mark was burned into his retinas, screaming death over and over in his mind. Everyone had assumed he was dead along with the others, but then he and his friends had walked out of the smoke. He'd been numb, feeling nothing. He still felt nothing. He'd simply gone on autopilot, making decisions, checking to see who was alive … there didn't seem like many at the time.
James shut his eyes tightly, hoping to stop the thoughts that had traveled in frenzied circles around his mind for the past two days that he'd spent in this living hell. So many people … so many loved ones were gone. Images played over his dark eyelids.
His cousin Jeff wrapping his arms around his wife's waist as they told the family she was pregnant … again.
Jeff and his first child, Jeremy, playing with the toys James had dug out from his childhood.
His laughing uncles, silhouetted with white light.
The image warped and wavered and he found himself looking at his father smiling and dancing with his mother.
Unable to take the assault on his senses James snapped his eyes open. He felt the darkness of the windowless hallway seeping into his soul … or perhaps it was already there. He picked at a thread on his pants. They were black pants. His button down, collared shirt was also black. Mourning clothes. Black for death. A visual representation of all that he'd lost.
James forced himself to stand up, leaning on the wall for support as his legs protested to the sudden movement. He needed to get back to the kitchen. The kitchen packed with widows, friends, family, and his sobbing cousin, a newly made orphan - just like him. His footsteps echoed eerily in the empty hall. He batted aside the tapestry and stepped out into the entryway of the house … his house now.
He slowly made his way to the kitchen door, letting his eyes adjust to the light, which might have seemed dim and gloomy to anyone that hadn't been in such darkness before. He paused outside of the door, straightening his black tie and brushing off his Dockers, trying to hide any remnants of the dusty floor and his dark thoughts.
"Where is he?"
The question silenced the other voices in the kitchen and traveled easily to James' ears. The topic of conversation had to turned to his absence. Well, at least it hadn't been remarked upon until now. He reached for the doorknob.
"He's probably gone to hang himself."
James straightened, his hand jerking away from the door as though he'd been burned.
"Don't say that about him!"
James recognized the staunch defense of his best friend, Sirius, but he could also hear the uncertainty in his voice. Did they all really thing that he'd sink to that? That he'd abandon them? James started shrinking back along the hallway without even realizing it until his back was pressed hard against the front door. The handle was digging into his side, making his breath hitch. Or maybe it was the thought that death would be easier than life that made his breath come hard. They all expected it of him; they wouldn't be surprised if he ended it.
He hadn't even been able to cry. His parents were dead and his eyes were as dry as cracked and drought-ridden ground. Gods, tears could have made him feel human at least, but they wouldn't come. His body was sapped of the emotions necessary for tears … for life.
His head shot up, cracking painfully on the door, as awareness seeped into his senses … there was someone on the other side of the door. It was hard to describe how he knew, but it was also indisputable that he did know and that he was right. He felt his skin crawl at the thought that it might be Death Eaters, here to finish what they started. Was that such a bad thing? Wouldn't that save him the choice of what to do with his life? He wasn't scared, was he? Not of death, but of missed opportunities. So many things he'd never say; never do. Should he open the door? The decision required no thought.
He whirled around quickly and with the ease of lifelong familiarity landed one of his hands on the doorknob and used the other to snap open the lock. He yanked the door open jerkily and caught it before it opened fully and had a chance to dent the plaster. His mother had always yelled at him about that. The blistering light of just past midday streamed around the startled person framed in the doorway, their hand in mid-raise as if to knock on the no longer present door.
James winced at the brightness. And to think he'd thought the deep gloom of the entry way was disorienting; compared to this brilliance, it was nothing. He blinked owlishly, trying to clear his vision. And as the person in front of him came into view James felt foolish for ever having contemplated the thought that it could be a Death Eater.
This was an angel. Why an angel would come to him he didn't know, but that wasn't important. The angel was small, petite, and heavenly. Dressed in white, her hair framing her face, and her eyes blazing. James couldn't tell what color her hair was or the shape of her nose, but he knew that they were perfection incarnate because this was an angel. Then she shifted and his vision finally focused.
It wasn't an angel. Her hair was messy and windblown, her eyes were tired, and her bare feet were dirty. The only thing that remained the same was her dress, a white sundress. Perfect for a day like this. Childish and perfect.
"Hello, James," she said, uncertainty in her voice.
The voice bypassed every standard route into his brain processing centers and hit him right in the heart.
"Lily," he croaked, his voice hoarse with un-use and grief. She looked down at her feet and wiggled her toes on his doormat. Why was she here? Had she come to join the mourning party? She couldn't. She was too alive to be in there. James stepped out onto the step quietly closing the door behind him. Lily took a step backwards to give him room. He almost wished she hadn't, she was so much prettier than an angel up close, so much more real. He wished he could touch her. Lily looked up into his face, her eyes trying to tell him something, but he wasn't sure what.
"Is there something I can help you with?" James asked as the silence around them began to feel stifling and humid.
"I … well, I was going to … Funny thing," she laughed, "I thought I needed help, but just seeing you has made everything better."
Was seeing her making him better? James wasn't sure. He looked anywhere but her face and saw the Muggle convertible parked by the curb. He took in its peeling red paint, dented bumper, and smashed taillight. It looked amazing.
"Did you drive here?" He asked, unsure of why he wanted her to confirm what he already knew.
She nodded and blushed slightly under her slight sunburn.
"I know it's not much, but it runs better than you'd think."
James suddenly was engulfed by the all-consuming thought that he needed to get away.
"Can we go somewhere?"
The words surprised him as they poured out of his mouth. Lily, too, looked surprised.
Anywhere would do, he just needed to be away. Only for a bit, half an hour, something, anything. Lily touched his shoulder and he flinched; she was sun warmed and he was stone cold.
"Let's go," was all she whispered.
They walked down to the car and Lily opened the passenger door for him. He wanted to tell her not to, that he could do it himself, but he didn't have the energy to say anything. Lily got in on her side and after a bit of scratching around got the key into the ignition. She floored the clutch and the engine sputtered to life with a roar close to that of a dying lion. She awkwardly shifted to first and the car jerked forward.
"Sorry," she whispered, "I'm not so good with shifting."
James just leaned back in his seat and watched as she eventually settled in at fourth gear. He didn't ask where they were going. He didn't really need to know. He was so tired. He tried to lean his head on the rusty and well-worn door, but it was hard to find a comfortable spot. In every position something was jabbing at him. Just like life. Something always seemed to be sticking in him. Now it just happened to be a sword instead of a pin. James jerked up as Lily's hand touched his shoulder again.
"You can use my shoulder if you'd like," she said, her eyes darting from him to the road and back as she negotiated a curve.
James settled his head into the curve of her shoulder, enjoying the scratchy feel of the strap of the sundress and the sticky sunscreen on her skin. Odd, nothing was jabbing him now.
He drifted off until he was jostled awake as Lily shifted into second gear, taking a sharp turn onto an old dirt road. He sat up, his body swaying with the disorientation of sleeping in a car. His limbs ached with the sensation that he hadn't moved at all, but was now somewhere completely different. How long had he slept? He looked around the car as Lily pulled the parking break. They were in the midst of an enormous field. A field of yellow flowers that seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see, a rolling mass of life.
"Come on," Lily said, getting out the car.
James pulled himself up and winced at the sweat layering his back. Black clothes weren't doing him any favors, not that they ever had. He walked over to her and she grabbed his hand in hers. He looked down startled, surprised to see how well their hands fit. Then without a warning she was off and James was struggling to keep up with her as she bounded with uncanny grace through the flowers.
The flowers came up to his knee and Lily's thigh. They made running a bit harder and James could see that some were lashing Lily's legs, making red welts, but he didn't tell her to stop. She was laughing, looking over her shoulder at him … begging him to join in. Suddenly she stopped and turned around toward the car. James did the same; it could hardly be seen in the distance. They'd run a long way. Lily was breathing hard with exertion, so was he.
Then with a cry of pure joy, Lily put her arms straight out and began to spin. James watched as her feet danced around each other, as her palms turned up to the dazzling sky as if inviting the world itself to share in her bliss. Unable to resist, James put his arms out as well and began slowly turning. He'd turned maybe twice, perhaps thrice, before he found in himself the same compulsion that made Lily spin faster and faster. He let his speed pick up. He didn't even have to think; his feet knew what to do. He turned his head up to the sky and realized he was laughing. Laughing.
Lily's circles had grown more erratic and she ran into him. He caught her and they both stumbled dazedly, the world acquiring a new orientation as it swirled around them. Unable to keep his feet under him, James collapsed to the ground, laughter still wheezing out of him even as Lily landed on his chest. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back on the ground as the darkness inside his eyelids whirled like a dervish. Lily lay her head down on his chest. When he took a breath her head would raise and when he let one out it would fall. It was intoxicating.
"Thank you," James said, not opening his eyes.
"Anytime, James, anytime."
When he opened his eyes again the sun was low in the sky, it was nearly night. He sat up startled, and reflexively reached his hands up to cradle Lily, realizing that she had fallen asleep on his chest. She stirred and blinked up at him, her eyes the same color as the stems and leaves around them.
"It's late," he told her.
She nodded and wearily got to her feet. He stayed on the ground. Would he be able to go back to his gloomy house and morbid kitchen after the glorious brilliance of this afternoon, with Lily? Lily offered him a hand and he let her pull him to his feet. She tried to let go and he held on to her hand tighter. They walked back to the car, their joined hands swinging between then as Lily hummed a lilting song. This time James opened Lily's door for her. She let go of his hand and slid in, smoothing her skirt that had acquired grass stains during their run. It looked even purer.
He got into the seat beside her and watched as she managed to back out onto the road and begin the journey back to his house. Awake this time, James watched Lily as the sun set and then as the stars came out. Whenever she wasn't shifting, he'd grab her hand, forcing her to drive one-handedly until she'd yelp and quickly readjust with both hands to avoid the edge of the road.
It was late when they reached his house; he had no idea how late, but it felt like he'd been gone an eternity and by the same token, a mere minute. Someone had lit candles and figured out the Muggle lamps; the light almost made his house look welcoming. Lily and James both got out of the car and Lily leaned on the hood. James joined her, feeling the old metal sag a bit under their combined weight.
"What were you running from?" She didn't look at him as she asked.
She hadn't even known why he needed to get away and yet she'd taken him anyway. She'd come to him in the first place, the boy she used to hate.
"Voldemort, he … "
Why was it suddenly hard to say? He'd said it a million times over the past days.
And then with no warning tears were streaming down James' face. He choked on a sob and Lily was immediately wrapping her arms around him, pulling him to her. She didn't say a word as he mumbled about everyone he'd lost, how much he'd wished that he'd met the same fate. Crying felt good, cathartic. James pulled away and Lily slid her arms up to his neck, not letting him get too far.
"It's so dark," he whispered, unsure if he was talking about the future or the night.
Lily looked at him and said, "Was the field dark?"
And James understood. There are indeed some dark patches in the world, in life, but interspersed are also spots of dazzling light. The field, Lily, they were that light.
"Come in with me?" He asked quietly, reaching his own hands out to touch her cheek, which was even more sun-kissed than earlier. She smiled slightly.
"If you want me to."
He had never wanted something so badly in all his life. He needed her there to keep the darkness out.
"Will your parents worry?"
She shook her head.
"They had a fight and they both left; they won't come back until tomorrow." She must have come to see him because of that. It still boggled his mind that out of everyone she'd chosen him. She had chosen him and by doing so had allowed him to choose her.
He pulled her up the steps and tried the door; locked. He leaned over and got the spare key from under the pot of begonias. After unlocking the door and putting the key back, he led her inside. It was so dark even with the lights blazing. Voices were emanating from the kitchen. There were no more cries. Jenny must have cried herself out. He walked slowly toward the door, which was half cracked, the reason the voices were so loud. He squeezed Lily's hand, buoyed by her presence.
"We need to search the house. He's probably hanging off a rafter, starting to rot. He wasn't strong enough, we all knew it."
Sirius never failed, did he? James was glad he wasn't going to let him down. Lily had frozen and James turned back toward her. She was stock still, her eyes glazed over as if staring at an unseen horror.
"Lily," he breathed, pulling himself close to her.
"You wouldn't," she whispered desperately, grabbing his collar and pulling his face down to her level. She shook her head frantically.
"Never," James said and knew it was the truth.
He grabbed her shoulders and held her tight.
They stood there together as one of his aunts made plans to search the house, with special attention to the attic, which was apparently a popular spot for suicide.
Lily was huddled close to him and he could feel her lips form the words, "We should go in."
He pulled back and their hands found each other's once again. He pushed open the kitchen door the rest of the way and gazed at his family, pale and eyes red-rimmed. He pulled Lily in with him and suddenly knew that the Potter family was a long way from giving up.
Thank you for reading my first ever one-shot! It turned out differently than I'd expected, but it has its strengths. It's as one of my friends said about the words not the story … if that makes any sense at all. Well, if you want to review feel free … if not, don't; feel happy about yourself instead.
If anyone reading is wondering about the fic I promised at the end of Kissing the Enemy it's still in the works, but it's coming along. It should be interesting.