Autumn Leaves

We are doomed, the way leaves are doomed to fall to the ground once autumn has begun. We didn't choose for it to be this way. After all, the leaves don't want to draw themselves away from the place they've always known, just to turn brown and fade away, forgotten, until they are nothing more than a fleeting memory. A flash of red tumbling from the sky. A flash of joy in a child's eyes at the vibrancy of its hue and this occurrence that seems so sudden. And then it's gone.

James tells me that I shouldn't worry, that I worry far too much. But I've always been this way; even he knows it's true. We used to laugh about it, how I'd lose sleep over something so insignificant that I would forget what it was by the next morning. But this feeling, this foreboding sense, is no small matter. I think James can feel it, too, but he won't admit it, least of all to me. He likes to keep secrets that, if told, would hurt me too much to bear.

For Harry's sake, we smile and laugh, just as he has always known us to do. He needs stability, now that the things his world is carefully balanced upon have become so fragile. Sometimes it's real, our charade; but most of the time, it isn't. We're supposed to be brave about this sort of thing, I know. James and I are Gryffindors, certainly, even if I often find myself thinking that James is the only one of the two of us that belongs there.

Sometimes I despise myself for being so frightened. Nothing has happened to us yet. At least, nothing other than what has already occurred. And what will happen will happen; I should be ready for whatever it is that comes our way. I have to remind myself that I don't have any right to be afraid when the three of us are still alive—because there are some I know who can no longer say the same thing. But that's what terrifies me: the destruction of us . I can't lose Harry or James, and I don't think that they can lose me. Not after everything we've endured to get this far.

You would think—hope, really—that life is fair. You would think that, after six years of James trying for my attention, and all the years after that of me reveling in the fact that James is the love of my life, we would get our own happily ever after. Perhaps he still thinks we will, but I've never been one for optimism. Yet, that's because I know that life isn't fair. If it was, Petunia and I would still be as close, as inseparable, as we once were when we were children and Hogwarts didn't yet exist. That was when magic wasn't real, but we both wished so desperately that it was. Now, after all of this, she won't let me see her anymore. I can't even say goodbye; it's not just because James, Harry and I are in hiding, but because fairytales are only meant to bring hope when there is none left. But they're not real, either.

I don't realize that I'm crying until I feel James snake his arms around my waist and nuzzle his nose against my neck. "What's wrong, Lilyflower?" he asks me.

My voice is shaky; I can't trust myself to say too much. "I don't know," I say. "Everything is so overwhelming."

He pulls me against his chest. "It'll be okay," he murmurs. "I promise."

We don't say anything more, just gaze out the window at the branches of a tree that is almost bare. Then an invisible force plucks the very last leaf and tosses it into the air. It spirals to the ground, a flutter of color against the grey. Yet as suddenly as it comes, it disappears.

The End