Disclaimer: I can't take credit for any of the characters or settings, they belong to JKR. The plot however is all mine
It was just another ordinary day. The grass was green, the sky was blue, and the sun shone down on the castle and grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The only exception to the simple, plain ordinariness of this day was that the Head Boy had gone missing.
"Where's Prongs this morning?" Sirius muttered sleepily as three Marauders gazed, perturbed, at their friend's empty bed.
"Probably out flying or something," Remus suggested with a shrug. "It's Sunday morning, go back to sleep."
Peter promptly redrew his curtains.
However, when the three Marauders emerged in time for lunch, they discovered that James still hadn't appeared. This was particularly odd, as James was never one to miss lunch. Lily's absence was also noted, which led Sirius to suggest rather hopefully that, "Maybe Prongs and Lily have finally gotten it together and are off somewhere?"
Remus rolled his eyes. "Sirius, I'll bet you all of your Uncle Alphard's gold that Lily's in the library."
"Bollux," Sirius swore at the Marauders Map, which to his detriment revealed Lily to indeed be in the library. Much to their collective dismay, upon further examination of the Map, James could not be located at all. Remus exchanged a look with Peter, halfway between concern and triumph, as Sirius blithely refused to hand over his inheritance.
Peter, however, did not seem to be as silly as he looked, something that no one dared to tell him, even when he suggested: "But maybe Lily knows where Prongs is?"
This statement was accompanied by his earnest little smile, which Sirius happened to find quite endearing."If you say so, Wormy," he told Peter indulgently as they set off to the library.
Sirius, who normally did not care that he had been banned from the library, was forced to wait outside while Remus located Lily, much to his chagrin. Peter remained with Sirius because he found Lily 'scary'.
Lily Evans was studying in the eastern corner of the library, dark red curls tumbling across the pages of her books. Remus paused to watch her thoughtfully as she impatiently brushed her hair out of the way and, in the process, noticed him standing beside her. Remus smiled shyly, rather unsure as to the exact way he should phrase his question. Instead, he settled simply for a quiet:
"Hello, Lily. I was wondering if you'd seen James today?"
Her emerald eyes met his uncertainly. "No I haven't," she replied, in equally hushed tones. They were, after all, in a library. "Why, has he gone missing?" she joked weakly.
Remus frowned. "As a matter of fact, he has."
Lily stopped writing, her quill poised in mid air as the gazed out the window thoughtfully.
"And you've looked everywhere?" she inquired mildly.
In fact, the boys had not searched every nook and cranny of the castle, but they did not need to, as the Map had covered all that. Having said that, Lily knew nothing of the Marauders Map, and Remus didn't feel that it was particularly appropriate to tell her. Instead, he simply nodded.
"So you checked the kitchens, and the Quidditch pitch, and the Head's study room, and…. Oh, I don't know, Dumbledore's rooms? Yes?"
Once again, the pretty redhead paused thoughtfully, and then checked her watch. Remus looked on curiously as her eyes widened slowly with understanding.
"Remus, what's today's date?" she asked.
"The fifteenth of October," the secret werewolf replied efficiently, always highly aware of the calendar.
Lily visibly paled. She stood up very quickly and began to pack away her things. "I… I think I might know, but… Leave it to me, I'll see what I can do."
With that, Lily Evans left the library with extraordinary haste. Remus sighed, realizing that she did not wish to be followed, and instead picked up her discarded books, dropped them in the return pile and rejoined the waiting boys.
The tiny black dot normally labeled 'Lily Evans' was also nowhere to be found on the Map by the time the Marauders made it back to the Gryffindor Tower – something that at once shocked and relieved the boys. On one hand, how on earth did perfect, prissy Lily know her way out of bounds? On the other, Remus knew her well enough to understand that Lily would not have left the school grounds if she hadn't been certain.
James Potter had spent the greater part of his Sunday lying on his back on a grassy hill. From this hill, James had been able to watch the sunrise, and in all probability he felt he would see the sunset too. James had not felt like company when he had awoken at one o'clock that morning. Instead, he had fetched his cloak and broomstick before sneaking out of the dormitory. The fly had lifted his mood marginally, as it always did, and there was comfort in returning to the familiar, grassy hillside where he had sought refuge on a year ago to this precise day.
Again, James sat and waited for it all to be over.
The fifteenth of October was the anniversary of his parents' deaths. It made James shudder to think of evineccia, a wizarding illness so swift and evil that it sapped not only the life force but the magic of its victims. They had died together in their home - the very same home to which James had returned with Sirius that next summer. James felt very alone.
A quiet voice interrupted his thoughts, and James' found that the voice seemed to belong girl with cascading red curls who was bending over him. He stared up at her, unsure as to how she had known.
Then, it occurred to James that the girl was Lily Evans. He sat up abruptly and stared off in the other direction, unable to look at her any longer.
Lily, however, did not seem to notice. She settled down beside him, legs crossed on the soft, squishy grass, and frowned at him.
"Are you all right?"
James blinked: it felt like his eyelids were sliding over cold, dry stone.
"What are you doing here?" he asked eventually.
Lily bit her lip, smoothing her skirt as she spoke. "Last year, when I heard…. I was worried, and I saw you disappear, so… I followed you. And I just realised the date, and it added up and the boys are so worried about you, James - how could you not tell them where you're going?"
James turned to stare , now. "Lily," he said slowly, "Did you just say you were worried about me?"
With a roll of her eyes: "Contrary to what you may think, James Potter, I don't hate you."
Lily could not deny the deep dismay that she felt, sitting on that hill watching him. James was a bright, happy, confident and occasionally arrogant young man, and in her mind bore no resemblance to the thin, desolate and vulnerable-looking figure slouched on the grass before her. His eyes were not sparkling with their usual mischief; instead, they were red rimmed, unshed tears loitering in their corners. Great dark lines curved beneath his lower lashes, an illustration of his physical exhaustion. His hair was undeniably lank, and not at all unruly.
There was silence as each watched the other.
"I can't believe it's been a year," James muttered finally, finding it easier to gaze towards the distant castle. Lily couldn't help but notice he was squinting slightly.
"I don't care how many times you tell people Remus fixed your eyes with a clarity spell, you still need your glasses."
James looked at her in surprise, before a slow, lazy smile spread across his features. Really, in the two years since the Lake Incident, James Potter had never looked so handsome. Lily couldn't help but find that particularly slow smile almost irresistible these days.
"Today makes me think," he told her quietly. "I know that Mum and Dad aren't here anymore, and I miss them. I can't… I can't ever forgive them for dying. For… for them leaving me." His voice broke a little. "I know it isn't their faults. But I'm too young to be left alone, to deal with this. I've grown up a lot… I've had to. But their… being gone. It - losing them - also makes me think that I have to make something of every day. That I have to find something beautiful, and celebrate it, every time I open my eyes. And honestly… Lily, all I can see, and all I've ever seen, is you."
Lily winced; now hardly seemed the appropriate time for this sort of conversation. But James was still staring doggedly into the distance, and though his expression was pure misery, his jaw was set in a determined manner and his hands were clenched, knuckles white.
"I don't mean…. I just don't think I could bear to lose you too."
James ducked his head, embarrassed and frustrated by the intensity of his words, and of his need to push this with her, this thing of fundamental importance. He was terrified of frightening Lily away for good, and yet - there it was, it had been wrenched out of him. He hadn't intended to tell her any of this, but somehow, as secrets tended to do, it had all rushed out. Her silence hurt him, as did the lack of emotion in her face. Had she even been listening?
"I… came to find you because I was worried, James. Because you scare me when you disappear. I'm scared of what you might do to yourself."
The seriousness of her voice made him feel the need to laugh.
"Lily, I'm not stupid enough to hurt myself. I couldn't do that to my friends. It's just that right now, all I feel like doing is sitting here on this hill and remembering. I don't want Sirius to distract me or Remus to fuss or Peter to try and sympathise. I just want to sit and feel whatever I need to feel so that I can be done with it."
Lily blinked. She hadn't noticed it until now, and yet there it was: James Potter had grown up. He had finally learned to be alone. Lily stood up, unsure but almost positive that this meant he wouldn't want her around either. But James raised his arm and gently tugged her hand. He didn't push, he didn't pester. He didn't seek her approval, approval he had needed for years. Instead, he simply waited, quite earnestly; he smiled hopefully up at her, but it was a smile tinged with a wistful sadness.
"Stay," he said, and she sat again. He didn't need her, only wanted her. She let him drop her hand, watched as his hands balled into small fists again. There was silence. Then, such a small, sad whisper-
"I'm glad you're here with me."
Lily reached out and untangled his clenched fists. She entwined her fingers with his, and shuffled just an inch closer, resting her head on his shoulder.
"Me too," she whispered.
By now, the sun was setting behind the distant hills. The young couple watched it quietly, but as the last rays vanished behind the mountain, Lily stood up again and attempted to pull James with her.
"We should get back." Her voice was quiet, cautious.
Sighing, James obliged. "We'll fly back," he told her, keeping a firm grip on her hand, and forcing the reluctant girl to look up at him. Gently, almost tentatively, he planted a soft kiss on her lips.
"Thank you," he whispered softly.
Lily nodded quietly, and tentatively climbed onto the broom in front of James.
Lily and James made their way up toward the castle, with James once again maintaining a persistent grip on Lily's hand. This time, however, the Head Girl did not seem to mind. In fact, it was Lily who held James back as they reached the front steps to the castle, and Lily who stood on tiptoes to give James a kiss of her own.
"Any time," Lily whispered, smiling, before she lead James back inside.
A/N: This is just something that I thought up on the spur of the moment. A boy I've known almost all my life died in January, and it was his birthday the other day, which got me thinking… anyway, that's the reason it's a little bit sad, in case anyone was wondering. Hope you all like it, and please do review, it means a lot to me!
Peace out xx