Forever Young

This story is for David, who would never betray me,

and for Anne, who did a lifetime in twelve years


Chapter One

Awkward Turtle

Lily Evans paused, almost mid step, in the dimly lit entrance hall, thinking rather more mischievously than she normally did. It was late October, and while winter had certainly not yet settled in, there was a definite chill in the air that suggested that it would not be too much longer. The full moon beamed at her from out of the high mullioned windows, as a mutable wind tugged come-hitherishly at the panes. She bit at the inside of her lip a bit, the contemplative tick-tock of the clock echoing her thoughts perfectly.

Fifth-year prefects were, strictly speaking, not supposed to leave the castle during their rounds, and had Remus been with her tonight she would not have given it so much consideration. But he was ill—surely that was a sign?

The clock tocked on, but Lily was finished considering. Glancing around her, she set off with light, quiet steps across the hall to the heavy oak doors and, pausing only to secure her long red hair behind her ears, swung them open with a great pull. She was rewarded as a cool breeze swelled up and engulfed her, and just one breath of it quenched all those thirsts that cannot be satisfied with water.

She smiled, taking off blithely down the shallow stone steps, and her only thoughts at that moment stemmed from a simple gladness that she was alive. She wended her way over the lawns, around the greenhouses, and all her favorite haunts. This was not her first illicit nighttime stroll, and as she rounded the castle and the view of the lake basked in moonlight was revealed, she decided—through her reverence—that Prefect or no, it would certainly not be her last. Her gait picked up speed as she headed down the slope, towards the lake, until a voice startled her.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT HERE?"

She gave a shriek and jumped, every muscle in her body seized up in terror, as her heart gave such a jolt she rather thought it had imploded. In this altered state of consciousness she saw a figure in a white shirt stagger out of the shadow of the castle wall into the light, clutching at his sides and roaring with laughter. Relief that she was not about to die swept through her system as she let out a breath and felt herself begin to relax.

As the boy before her continued to struggle with his fits of hysteria, she registered who he was: Samuel Matson, a seventh year in her own house, with whom she had recently become acquainted through her various duties as a Prefect. He was extremely popular, the reigning king of the social scene, widely regarded as handsome, and this years Head Boy; Lily was at a loss to understand why he paid any attention to her at all. Well alright, to be perfectly honest she had a pretty good idea why, but no busybodies had yet approached her on the matter, which forced her to wonder if it was only her imagination: normally people in this place could sniff out any possibility of romance about a light year off. As his laughter began to abate he looked at her with a rather insufferable grin.

"I'm sorry Lily," he struggled, "...but the look on your face—priceless."

"Mm." She gave him a withering expression, but her annoyance was mostly pretend.

"What are you doing out here?" he asked genially, hands in his pockets and still smiling a bit.

"Walking," she said hotly, "Certainly not lurking in the shadows, waiting to prey on unsuspecting passerby. Why—what are you doing?"

"Ah me," he said with a rather pronounced air of enigma, "I'm after a rogue Prefect tonight—she's not supposed to leave the castle, see—especially not on her own."

Oops. Lily had, in her terror and subsequent relief, forgotten that small detail. But her cheeks barely flushed as she looked back at him—something (she had no idea what) told her that, somehow, she was not to be punished too harshly.

"Well then, are you going to turn me in to Professor McGonagall, or lecture me yourself?"

He rubbed the back of his neck. "Well see now there's the trouble, I could—rather I should, do either of those."

She moved her eyebrow coyly. "But..."

"But well—it's such a lovely night, and there are so many other things I could talk to you about... and I'm afraid McGonagall and lectures might just—ruin the mood a bit."

There! How in the hell was that not outrageously flirtatious?

Heart rate beginning to pick up speed again—this had to be it—Lily said demurely, "Oh? And those other things are?"

He looked at her squarely. "Remus Lupin."

Heart rate dropping speed faster than... something that dropped ridiculously fast. Lily's head swam. "What?"

"Remus Lupin, this is the second time he's been ill in as many months, what's going on there?"

She blinked. "He's truly ill, if that's what you're getting at."

"Is there anything I should know about?"

Lily rolled her eyes, feeling distinctly annoyed—no, not annoyed, merely nonplussed, at the turn the conversation had taken. "Nothing you'll find out from me—why don't you ask him yourself?"

Sam looked slightly taken aback. "Oh. I just thought you were friends."

"Well yeah, we are," she averred, "But I really don't know him that well—maybe James, or Sirius..."

He waved a hand dismissively and said, "Nah, I really don't care that much. Come on, walk with me."

He began up the path towards the castle, and Lily went with him. She made sure she was looking straight ahead of her so as to give him the opportunity to stare at her as much as he pleased, because quite a lot could be gaged from how much time he spent looking at her when he thought she wasn't paying scrutinizing attention to him. And stare he did. By the time they reached the steps, Lily had turned a little pink, because no one, much less a clever girl such as herself, could pretend to fail to notice the glaring obviousness at this point.

The impending stairs forced him to pay attention to where he was going, and as he looked away at last, Lily felt something snap in her. She stopped, two steps from the bottom, and as he turned around to give her a questioning glance she folded her arms over her chest, steeling herself—despite her pride, which was presently in a back room of her mind throwing a tantrum.

"How come you didn't turn me in—how come I'm not in trouble?"

He smiled wryly. "Glutton for punishment, are you?"

She pressed on, "You said it was because you wanted to talk about other things, and—call me crazy—but I think Professor McGonagall's would have been a perfectly decent place to ask me what was the matter with Remus Lupin."

He sighed, descending the steps between them until they were level, "You don't miss a trick, do you?"

"No, I don't—not ever."

He smiled. "I know that—I can't decide if it's a turn-on or just plain frustrating."

She popped a knee, placing her foot on the next step and resting her hands on her hips. "Speaking of just plain frustrating..."

Sam had the grace to look sheepish.

"If you don't fancy me that's just fine, but then you should stop saying things like that because it's odd and irritating and really not appreciated."

Their gazes met abruptly as he raised his eyes. "How could you think that?"

"Think what?" She reached out and smacked him upside the head—just a few newtons shy of painfully.

"Think that I'm not mad about you." He leaned in a bit closer to her, and everywhere in her head thoughts belted out an anthem of victory.

Hah—he does fancy me! He fancies me—take that, all you dim-witted busybodies!

But on her face she allowed only a coy half-smile to show as she said smugly, "I thought so."

He suddenly looked entirely too serious, and he poured all of it into his gaze.

"Well there you have it," he said in a low voice, barely above a murmur, "That's it. I'm out of clever lines—it's just the truth. I fancy you like a desert fancies rain, when you laugh my whole world gets warmer, I'm a miserable wank to be around if I don't talk to you or see you at least once a day, your mind amazes me, and... I think you have the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen."

Lily gazed at him with those wide shining eyes then; she was touched. So touched, she didn't even notice—if she had heard those words in any other moment she might have retched at the saccharine, sickening mush. As it were, she held her breath, staring somewhere around his collar, hardly believing it...

"Lily?"

She glanced up. He was still gazing at her with that intensity she could barely understand. She didn't generally like what she misunderstood, but she squashed any dissenting part of her in favor of the thrill it gave her to know that he felt this for her. That she was the one who'd put that look on his face.

He cracked a grin. "Aren't you going to say anything?"

"Yeah," she breathed, and then swallowed. There was an expectant pause.

"Okay... how about, now?"

She laughed. "I—I don't know what to say."

Then he did it. He leaned over and kissed her—just like that. It only lasted a few seconds, and she would never for the rest of her life remember what had passed through her mind in that brief moment, except she supposed enthusiastically that she could get used to the sensation of being kissed.

When he pulled away she glanced down demurely, biting her lip, knowing perfectly well the affect it would have on him: let it not be said that she didn't know exactly what she was doing.

His voice was gruff when he spoke, "Was that your first kiss?"

As if he didn't know perfectly well that it was! She nodded.

"I should have made it better," he said, looking insecure.

She rolled her eyes, and brought her hands up around his neck, pulling him back down to kiss her again—if only to shut him up.

Lily had always intended to keep count of how many kisses she'd had, and from whom, but by the time they had made it to the first floor she had already lost track. Of kisses, that is—there was still just the one kisser. Sam.

They had arrived at the corridor which led to the Head Boy's private room. Sam leaned in and stole another kiss—was that thirteen or fourteen?

"D'you want to come in?"

Lily flushed. "That's hardly allowed, is it?"

He shrugged. "Not much could happen—it's not like you're going to get caught—you're the Prefect on duty, I'm the Head Boy, and I don't see Filch around anywhere..."

"It's late." Lily didn't know why she was refusing him, so to make up for it she smiled and kissed him again. "I'm really tired—next time, yeah?"

"Is that a promise?"

She flushed harder, and her throat—or maybe her brain, seemed to have a block in it.

"Lily?" He was looking at her with concern, "Lily, you don't have to, you know—I was only joking."

The truth was that Sam had dated around a bit—quite a lot, compared to herself. One particular head case in this dating history had wasted no time in telling everyone at her table in Herbology (not to mention everyone at the four tables surrounding hers) all about the rather vibrant sex life she and Samuel had maintained throughout their relationship. That was last year. Lily was no prude, but she wasn't about to surrender her virginity until she was ready, and absolutely certain that Grace had been making up all that stuff about the leather and the handcuffs and the Astronomy Tower.

"Yes, I know, it's just, well—you're a bit of a whore, aren't you?"

True, it sounded crass, but Sam Matson could take it—and he would, as a compliment no less. She'd never met anyone who was quite so difficult to insult without running the danger of stroking his ego somehow.

He smiled, taking her hands in his and saying softly, "I don't care about sex, Lily—not with you."

Yeah, right.

"I mean, I'm not going to lie, I really want to—Gods how I want to—but I'd rather be celibate for the rest of my life than make you do something you're not ready to."

She nodded. "Good, because I don't. Want to, that is. Not for a while anyways."

He renewed the smile, bringing her hand to his lips and placing a kiss on it. "Waiting is gravy. Just as long as I get to wait with you."

And with that he kissed her once more. Fourteen... or fifteen.

Lily walked away from the conversation that night feeling... rather smug. On top of the world, in fact. He was her boyfriend. Sam Matson was her boyfriend. The coolest, suavest, most popular guy in school had told her "waiting is gravy." She almost cringed in embarrassment for him. Waiting is gravy...

"What an idiot!" she muttered, rolling her eyes and laughing cruelly to herself as she passed through the Gryffindor common room.

"Who's an idiot?"

For the second time that evening Lily nearly jumped out of her skin. Peter Pettigrew stood there smiling at her. She smiled weakly back.

"No one."

Peter folded his arms in what he must have considered to be a cool, smug gesture. "Uh huh. Right."

He'd been hanging around James Potter and Sirius Black too much—and unfortunately, he couldn't pull off the whole I'm-the-most-amazing-thing-on-two-legs attitude quite as believably as them. It wasn't that he was stupid—on the contrary, he was actually rather smart. Mostly, she supposed, he just seemed to always be one step behind the rest of the world, though it was hard to know in what way exactly.

"Yeah... what are you doing out here, Peter?" asked Lily.

"You promised you'd work on Potions with me." He gave her a small, neutral smile, and Lily cringed inwardly. That's right. He had been talking to her last week—he wanted "girl advice," of all things, and Lily had only just gotten away by promising to help him revise sometime. She felt so bad to reject him, but as she stood there her elated feeling of being on top of the world was rapidly shifting to one of being directly under its arse.

"Peter—it's eleven thirty!"

He had the most mildly annoying expression she'd ever seen. He looked disappointed. As though she'd used some thin excuse to wriggle out of spending time with him. And there was something else there as well, hidden deep under it all, so hidden that only her own subconscious noticed something amiss, and it would take years for her thoughts to catch up.

But for now, Lily simply stood there, elbows locked with her hands down in front of her in a rather ungainly position—right over left, fingers together and facing downward, with her thumbs sticking out and writhing in little circles like two legs of an extremely awkward turtle.

Peter blinked. "Oh. Well, alright then. Goodnight."

As he rushed away up the boys staircase, Lily felt a strange expression of her own cloud her features. She was so very glad to be rid of her company. And she dreaded tomorrow, because she knew that Peter would only become more persistent the longer she put him off—he didn't seem to understand the idea that when someone keeps mysteriously being met with reasons not to spend time with you, that it's usually a sign that the person in question, and not fate, is the one determined to keep you apart.

She got into her pajamas in a daze, and as she flopped back onto her four poster she smiled and gave a contented exhale: she was alone. But the breath she drew back in came through troubled lips as her face contorted into a dry sob. She couldn't tell if she was angry or sorry, but she didn't ever want to see anyone again—or at least not for a while.


A/N: Even if this seems like a rather lackluster start, I'd like to take a moment to ask you all (oh alright, beg you all) to continue reading at least until I post chapter three or so, then if you still don't like it you can feel free to flame me all you like for being boring, self-important, lame, whatever. I really have no self-restraint at all---I meant to write this whole thing and then post it essentially all at once, but I still miss the interaction and give-and-take that comes from writing a WIP, so at this time I've decided to post it, even though I have a total of about two more chapters written. BUT FEAR NOT---I can't really imagine that this story could take as much time and energy as House of the Quick and the Hungry, because it's far more straightforward in terms of plot and point-of-view, and plus I have a very detailed outline completed. So read, enjoy, and maybe review?