Author's Note: So far, writing this story is an exhilarating experience. I don't know how the plot will end, but I'm constantly coming up with new ideas; the freedom of writing is half the fun, if not all. Thanks for the reviews so far. I'm hoping for tons of feedback on this chapter.
Summer of 1976, Potter Castle
She was vaguely awake but sleeping, floating in and out of a dream.
Her parents laugh. They are in a park near their house in Hertfordshire. Lily is playing with a collie, tossing a ball to distract it and then running the other direction as fast as she can in her red buckled shoes. With the ball held firmly in its mouth, the collie looks almost bemused at first; then he starts chasing her. Lily runs and runs, laughing, until she realizes she is filled with a sense of dread. She is running for her life. They are far from her parents now and she is alone, running to a deserted forest. She is only a child but she knows that she will be killed in a few seconds, and her parents think it's a lovely game. The collie looks menacing, and only she can see it. She has never been so terrified. Then she is suffused with resignation. She is going to die. The wild feeling of abandon, the grim realization that she doesn't care whether she's dead or alive…
She woke up, tears ready to stream down from her eyes. One rolled down her cheek, leaving a warm trail, and fell onto a bronze dupioni silk duvet cover.
She wiped her eyes and sat up, warily surveying her surroundings.
The room was elegant in a simple way. The marble floor glinted the morning rays streaming in from a window, framed in Indian embroidered silk curtains. It seemed to be decorated with a hearty Gryffindor color theme. Everything cast a red and gold hue. The ambiance was soothing.
But she still had no idea where she was.
Her feet dropped to the cold floor. Hugging her arms around herself, she took another glance around and walked into an adjoining bathroom.
The bathroom was larger than any she had been in before. A claw-footed bath with a complicated shower and thick white towels laid beside it made her click her tongue with regret. A series of mirrors were framed by lightbulbs and a small vanity table stood to the side. She crossed the bathroom to look in an armoire. Hangings down were typical women nightclothes: silk robes, nighties, night gowns. Lily quickly closed the armoire and left the bathroom.
She gingerly opened the door of her room. Then she gasped at the sight that awaited her.
She was in a castle, but not a castle like Hogwarts. No, compared to this, Hogwarts had the grim appearance of a dungeon, with creaky staircases and leaks and ghosts lurking around the next corner; at Hogwarts, rickety castle door hinges opened to abandoned rooms of dusty furniture and the staircases had missing steps.
This castle was nothing like Hogwarts.
An immense silver chandelier seemed to rain jeweled light that danced on the walls. The ceiling dome was painted with a Renaissance scene of gay cherub, gods and goddesses in golden robes on a backdrop of clouds and clear blue. The floors were carpeted with beautiful Indian décor. Lily was reminded of a lifestyle she read about in books, where men smoked and drank brandy in lavish cigar rooms and women entertained in brightly lit tea rooms.
The castle seemed to stretch on as far as her eyes could see. An elaborate staircase made of dark mahogany spiraled through the entire castle, covered in a rich gold carpet. She stepped to a banister and realized she was on the fifth floor and was not nearly close to the top of the castle.
Below her she saw a reception room with a baronial fireplace with a Victorian Gothic stone mantel, flanked by two stone lions. To the right it opened up to a library, where bookcases were stacked with leather-bound books of all colors. Everything was breathtaking. She couldn't begin to count the grand doorways on her floor alone, let alone the entire castle.
She felt alone in this enormous castle, but she wasn't afraid in the bright and warm atmosphere. Lily instinctively took a liking to it.
"Hello? Is anyone else here?" she called out tentatively. When nobody answered, she took a deep breath and yelled at the top of her lungs, "HELLO, IS ANYONE IN HERE?"
"Yeah! Hold on!" a small voice responded, taking her aback for a second.
"WHERE ARE YOU?" she asked.
"I'm in the tea room," the voice said, not without a bit of irony.
Then through a gilded arched doorway came James Potter in a collared shirt and dark beige slacks, looking very put together except for his tousled hair. He looked up at her, gave a little wave and began jogging up the immense staircase.
Lily suddenly had a migraine. She stepped back from the banister and put a hand in her head, as though to balance the whirling motion she felt.
Finally he made it to her, showing almost no sign of exertion.
"Whew, I need to get back in shape in time for the Quidditch season," he said absent-mindedly, as he slowed to a stop two feet in front of her.
"Where am I?" she asked.
"You're at my house," he said, looking all but a little boy with his thick-rimmed glasses and bed-tousled hair. She almost reached over to straighten it out. Except he wasn't a little boy, she was reminded. He was a grown seventeen-year-old most likely, since most Seventh Years were a year older than her. Knowing this, she felt more than a little uncomfortable in her skimpy top and shorts, standing in his castle after sleeping a night of oblivion.
She could only choke and pretend to laugh. "Your… house."
"Yeah, well, you fainted yesterday you know. I figured you were exhausted, so my father pulled a few strings, so you could have a rest before being interrogated by a group of Aurors," James said, looking at her earnestly.
She could only sputter, begin to talk and stop, try again, before he raised his hand, not unkindly.
"Do you want to eat some breakfast?" he asked.
She looked down. The situation was getting out of hand. She didn't know where she should go or whether she should demand to leave when she had no idea how to get to the Ministry of Magic. She was hungry though.
"Yes, I'd love to," she answered, crossing her arms, "but I want to ask you a question first."
"Sure," he said, with a winsome smile.
"What gave you the right to make a decision for me?" she asked steely, "You didn't ask for my permission to bring me to your house, your castle… whatever. You just assumed that I'd want to leave the Ministry of Magic to take a little break? Or you just assumed that I'd be happy to wake up in a strange place, not knowing where the hell I've been sleeping for the past few hours or—"
Startled, James made a calming motion then tried to touch her shoulder. At that her eyes widened and she nearly fell over trying to avoid his hand. She began to shiver uncontrollably, with the memory of the wizard in her house last night, touching her leg, saying those disgusting things.
"Are you scared of me?" he asked at length. Then he put his hands up in a comforting gesture. "I won't do anything to you, don't worry. And I'm sorry. I didn't want to assume anything, but you looked exhausted last night. And the Aurors wouldn't have cared about what you went through or how you felt. You would have been at the Ministry for hours waiting even before your interrogation, which itself would have been an impossible ordeal in those conditions."
"Yeah, yeah," she whispered, crossing her arms.
"Come on. You must be starved." James said, and began walking down the stairs in front of her.
They didn't speak to each other until they reached the kitchen. Lily stared with amazement at the gorgeous paintings, the statues, the endless doorways and fireplaces, tea rooms, hallways, beautiful artifacts that must have belonged in a museum. The kitchen was spacious and brightly lit, with a doorway into a dining room.
"You have a beautiful house," she told him when they entered the kitchen.
"Thank you," he said, without stopping to think. "Okay now, what do you want to eat?"
"What do you have?"
"Anything and everything. But out of all that, what I can cook is… a bit limited," he said, looking in a refrigerator.
To her surprise, she laughed. "Okay then, what can you cook?"
"Cereal, toast, egg omelet, fruit... that kinda stuff," he said with a grin.
"You don't own house elves?" Lily asked with some surprise.
"Nah," he said, "we used to. But I asked my parents to dismiss the elves when they're away. I like it better that way."
"Where are your parents?" she asked.
He gave her a strange look. "I forget that most parents stay at home sometimes. Mine are usually off… vacationing at some beach or sightseeing. They leave me at home a lot."
"Oh.." she said.
"Okay well, I'm making toast and eggs," James said, floating things out of the refrigerator with his wand.
"You use magic outside of school!" she asked.
James continued floating the items, and answered nonchalantly, "Yeah, my dad pulled a few strings."
She would realize that those words were the answer to a lot of things when it came to James. Without dwelling on it, she offered her help to him and began cutting fruit.
Once they had their toast, eggs and fruit ready, they took their simple meal to the dining table and sat down at opposite ends. Looking over the long mahogany table at each other, they started laughing.
"I'll move," James said, and took the seat next to her. Then after a few minutes of silence, he ventured, "So, you and I don't usually talk at school."
"Yeah," Lily said, poking at her eggs.
"In fact, I barely know you at all," James continued, "It's a bit awkward to eat with someone at your house when you've hardly conversed with them before. But I'd like to know more about you, like, things you like to do, where you come from, all that good stuff."
She laughed. "Okay. Well. I'm Lily Evans."
He nodded and said politely, "Nice to meet you."
"And… I'm seventeen, in a few weeks or so at least. I was born in Hertfordshire… my parents… " her throat clenched and she struggled to hold in a sob right then.
James said discerningly, "Well that's more than plenty."
"A-and, what about you?" she said in a quavering voice.
"My name is James Potter. I'm probably, you know, one of the more desirable males at Hogwarts," he said in an ironical monotone, "I've been engaged twice already, and my parents are working on a third. You see, I'm supposed to graduate from Hogwarts, take a little taste of adult life, maybe get a job, but ultimately retire early and get married. That's what my parents want, at least."
But Lily wasn't really listening. She was deep in thought. Suddenly she sprang halfway up from her seat. "Petunia! I have to send her a letter."
"Who's Petunia?" James asked.
"My older sister," Lily answered, distressed that she hadn't thought of contacting her before.
"Okay, you can borrow my owl right away," he said.
They cleared away their plates and for the remainder of the afternoon, Lily sat on a plush couch of a tea room as she struggled over her letter to Petunia and finally gave her final version to Bruiser, the owl James let her borrow.
As she watched Bruiser soar away in the air, she stepped out onto a veranda and watched the sky change color. It was beginning to get chilly and she was still dressed in practically nothing.
She also marveled at the beautiful grounds that stretched beyond the castle, comparable to the beauty inside. The estate was so large that she could imagine herself alone in the universe, standing in the only castle on the planet. A clean moat wrapped around the front of the castle, with a drawbridge. A swimming pool with glacial colored taps stretched before her eyes. Far off in the distance she saw a dense forest, next to a pristine and well-kempt garden with clipped hedges and fruit trees.
Suddenly she saw in the corner of her eye, the end of a broomstick. Looking closer she saw that James was flying on his broomstick on his personal Quidditch field.
She shook her head and began walking towards him. "It figures that he has his own Quidditch field."
The walk to the field was long and she was a little out of breath by the time she got there. But she admired the brilliant red, orange and pink of the receding sun. She thought she saw James grin when he saw her. He spun flips in the air and flew at an almost dangerous speed.
"Stop showing off already!" she yelled, teasing him.
"What?" he yelled down.
She repeated herself. Then he really grinned.
He began whirling down at breakneck speed, to her increasing horror. Just when she thought he was going to crash on the grass, he pulled up as she screamed, laughing at her.
Then he descended slowly to her level, with his right foot almost on the ground, he hovered.
"Is this what you do during the summers?" she asked, "Nearly kill yourself out on a Quidditch field?"
"Pretty much, yeah," he responded, smiling. "You should try it sometime."
She felt almost at peace for the first time in two days, with the sunset before her and the new and unexpected friendship of James. She still ached inside for her parents and her loss, but she put the matter off to the side almost forcefully, pretending that all was right in the world.
"I will someday," she promised.
She was shorter than James but he towered over her on his broomstick, casually skimming a foot on the grass.
"Why not now?" he asked. Before she could say no, he grabbed her waist and hoisted her on the broomstick in front of him. His arms firmly ensconced her in what she thought was a protective grasp, not an amorous one. But she wasn't sure. He said, "I promise I won't fly too fast!"
"Wait," she said weakly, before they flew off. In a matter of moments, she was not merely admiring the sunset; she was in it. They flew through the gloriously receding hues of the sky, the wind cooling them off and blowing through their clothes. She felt languorous, safely embedded in the arms of a strong and trustworthy person.
James flew almost sensuously, always maintaining the perfect speed for her. They swooped in arching curves and dropped down, not too precipitously. Lily felt as though they were ethereal, light, more than human beings, frolicking in the bathing sunlight like the golden cherubs on the ceiling of James' castle. She now understood why James loved to fly and she wished she had figured it out sooner.
She looked down at his tanned arm, lightly encircling her waist, marveling at this. Just a day ago, she would have never dreamed of this. Not that she was reading too much into it. James probably took all of his girlfriends and his female relatives flying. And those girls probably felt the same way Lily did right now: special, extraordinary. He had the quality of making a girl feel like she was starring in a glamorous film alongside a beautiful man, not because he was beautiful per se, but because he had the bearing of one.
He's dangerous, Lily mused, but not because he means to be. He probably makes girls giddy and unconsciously fills them with hope of… something she couldn't define, but she knew she felt the traces of that mysterious hope when she thought of James. His life was just so different. His luxurious estate, filled with golden tiles, Romantic décor and endless hallways of never explored rooms complemented him. He exemplified glamour: his dark, windblown hair, the way he flies in solitude against the beautiful sunset, his teasing smiles, his constant disappearances at school.
The broom dipped into a sudden drop and Lily screamed, shaken out of her reverie.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to do that," James said from behind her.
The sky was almost completely dark by now.
"You want to fly back?" he asked.
She only nodded. He began flying back to the castle.
They ate dinner and were clearing the plates when Lily ventured to ask James for a change of clothes.
"Do you think you have anything just lying around?" she asked, "Anything is fine, really."
"Oh, sure," he said, "Sorry I didn't offer sooner."
"It's okay," she assured him.
"Okay, hold on. Or, just come upstairs with me," James said, then crossed the reception room and to the stairs.
Lily followed him until they reached his room.
"It's really dirty right now," he explained apologetically, as they entered.
She looked around curiously. James' room looked so typically… male. It was larger than the average student's room, of course, but the walls were covered with the same posters of Quidditch players, the floors were strewn with clothing and coins and wrappers. Two large windows framed with red and gold curtains looked out onto the moat and the rest of the grounds. An elegant posterbed with a canopy stood between the windows, covered in disarrayed bedsheets.
James was rifling through his closet, muttering to himself.
Finally he came out, holding a shirt in his hand hesitantly. "I don't know if this will fit you…"
She took it and put it against her body. "I don't know either," she laughed. "Wait, I think I saw something to wear in my room upstairs."
"Yeah," Lily said, "I'll just wear something I find from there and meet you downstairs."
She went to her room, entered the bathroom and opened the armoire she looked in that morning. Lily settled on a pink silk nightie with lace trim at the hem. She knew a nightie was a bit risqué, but she was wearing a skimpy tank top and shorts that covered even less. The nightie would come down further on her legs, if not by much.
She surveyed herself in the mirrors. The nightie exposed her cleavage just barely and her form in the contours of the silk looked graceful.
Hoping it wouldn't be too awkward when James saw her, Lily went downstairs to the reception room to meet him.
The room was dimly lit by a small chandelier with a fireplace to the side, in between two statues of lions. There was a grand piano covered in a white lace fabric and plushy couches. The walls were covered in ornate gold décor and the doorway was large and gaping.
He was sitting on a couch skimming a book when she came. James raised his eyebrows and remarked, "I knew you would find me attractive sometime, but I didn't know you'd come around so soon."
Lily put her hands on her hips. "I didn't come down here to seduce you, if that's what you're thinking."
He groaned, put with his hands over his heart and fell over, pretending to be dead at first. Lily laughed. Then she stopped when he opened his eyes and smiled at her.
She tried to smile and look away.
"James…" she said in a quiet voice.
"Come over here," he said, his voice casual. He looked at her in an appreciative but respectful manner.
Shivering slightly, she walked to the couch, aware of the silk touching her naked skin, her long and tan legs, her hair touching her bare back and her exposed neck. She didn't sit down. She stood in front of James so that he had a vantage point of her navel, almost as a challenge; he could have touched her anywhere in an instant, if he wanted to. She closed her eyes.
James sat up quietly. "Hey, look at me," he said. Lily opened her eyes. "I'm not going to do anything to you or with you."
Lily stood, a little dumb-struck.
Then smiled angelically, "That is, until you explicitly ask me to do something or make the first move yourself."
Lily laughed and said, "I knew something like that would come up."
"I'm seventeen years old, Lily," James said, with a light smile playing at his lips, "And I have a beautiful girl in a silk nightie standing two inches away from me."
She decided to tease him a little. "What makes you so sure that I'll make the first move or ask you for anything?"
He didn't answer her, but smiled and fell back on the couch. Then he glanced around the room, seeming to appreciate the dim lights playing off the gold hues of the walls, the elegant decoration and the fire blazing nearby. "Who could resist this? There could be no better place, no better time, no better feeling," he said.
They stared at each other. His eyes challenging, hers searching. Then Lily slowly placed her bare right leg between his. His face lit up. Cautiously she propped herself on her knees. James leaned forward to meet her. His hands went around her waist to steady her and ran up and down her torso, making her shiver.
"James… I don't know," Lily said hesitantly.
Her hair covered both sides of her face and she couldn't bring herself to look him in the eyes.
"Your first move," he said. When Lily looked up at him, their gaze was so electrifying, so intense, that she shivered. Her skin burned through her silk nightie. Suddenly she wanted to feel the rich carpet beneath her and to feel his hand running up and down her bare skin.
She kissed him slowly, unsure of herself. Neither of them were completely untaught in the matters of teenage love. Lily could only imagine the things James did, with all sorts of girls willing to be with him. She herself never lacked a line of male suitors, mostly boys who had suddenly sprung into manhood, fully grown young men when they had been adorable boys just a year ago.
Lily was often pursued for dances or Hogsmeade dates. But she always kept her priorities in order, and considered her classes more important than dating. She had never had a long-term boyfriend, preferring to date for fun occasionally. So she wasn't completely inexperienced in these matters; she was rather like a member who paid the club fees but never went to the meetings.
James wrapped his arms around her waist, and looked up into her face with a questioning glance. She nodded mutely, transfixed by his dark eyes.
"Lie down on the carpet," he said.
Lily took a deep breath, and gingerly stretched herself out on the floor. She bashfully pulled her negligee over her legs when the hem slid down and exposed her underwear. She shivered at the sight she must have presented to James: her long, silky legs, shapely curves, soft breasts.
James wasted no time. Straddling her with his legs, he leaned down and kissed her lightly. Sweet kisses on her forehead, more insistent ones on her neck and shoulders, his fingers lingered near the lace straps of her negligee and slowly brought one down, almost exposing a full and aching breast.
Without even realizing what she was doing, Lily arched her back, pushing herself into him. James moaned, and slowly pushed the silky fabric up her slender hips. His hands explored the shape of her thighs, reaching almost up to her throbbing center and purposely denying her. Then they traced circles on her stomach, lightly grazing the swell of her breasts.
"Wait…" Lily murmured, her arms slackening around his neck.
She would soon be fully naked by the rate they were going. Her insubstantial negligee was pushed around her waist and James' hands were touching her in places nobody else ever had, at least in that manner. She lay under him in little but her sheer black underwear, her back arched and her neck exposed to his touch.
"Oh lord, WAIT," Lily demanded suddenly, pushing his shoulders sharply.
He got off and she scrambled to her feet, blushing as she pulled the negligee over her underwear and covered her chest. Her nipples were dark and probably visible through the diaphanous fabric.
James adjusted his glasses, which had been almost knocked off of his face. His hair was wildly rumpled, and his face looked dark. "What the hell, Lily?" he asked.
"Do you even know me?" she asked in a piercing voice. Her hands flapped up in a wild manner.
He gave her a contemptuous look, then laughed. "Do you even care?" he asked darkly, then deliberately glanced up and down her body, "because you sure as hell weren't complaining a minute ago."
Lily stared at him in open-mouthed shock. She wasn't even shocked at what he said. Sadly, she was more ashamed of herself.
She looked around the gargantuan room, crossing her arms and trying to regain her composure. She truly felt sorry for James. If she weren't here, would he be alone in this castle or flying at his quidditch field in the dark while his parents were off without him?
But what about her? She didn't even have parents anymore. She was alone in the world now, vulnerable.
Vulnerable to all sorts of people. Even people her own age who had their own troubles, like James.
He stared at her, his face composed and nonchalant, his arms crossed over his Oxford collared shirt.
Lily took a deep breath. "You tried to take advantage of me," she accused in a quavering voice, "What were you planning? To bring me to your lair and what, have sex with me? Devirginize me in your family's reception room?" She hardened her voice. "You disgust me."
James let silence drop for a second. Then he replied, "Who was the one who came down here in a tiny negligee? You seem to be mistaken if you think this is some classic date rape scene where the bad guy plots and schemes his way into the good girl's pants." His eyes trailed over her. "You know what I think?"
She couldn't move, much less think.
"Why, I think you're a tease," he said.
Lily thought she was going to faint again. Anything would be an improvement to the awkward staring contest they were in. Then her face crumpled and she began sobbing quietly into her hands. She thought she saw a glimpse of James' face, horrified and contrite, but wasn't sure.
All she knew is that suddenly a blanket was draped over her and there was nothing sexy about the situation. James put his arms around her shoulders and she cried with abandon as he led her up the stairs.
She cried until she felt snot sliding down her nose. James pulled out a cloth from his pocket.
"Blow your nose into this," he said, holding it to her face. She laughed (it came out as a strangled sob) and blew her nose, not caring how disgusting she must have looked.
And in that unexpected switch of events, James slipped into a brotherly role as easily as everything must naturally come to him, carefully leading her up the stairs. He had a way of making anything seem fluid and believable.
Instead of taking her to her room on the fifth floor, James brought her to the room adjacent to his. With his eyes averted, he assured her that "nothing" would happen, meaning, the business in the reception room was closed off forever. Most girls would have been deeply regretful for it.
Lily was too tired to think. After thanking him, she crawled into another strange bed, equally luxurious as the one she woke up in, and promised herself to go back to the Ministry the next morning.