Written in November 2005.
"It's getting cold."
The moment those three words escaped Lily's lips, James shrugged off his own cloak and swiftly wrapped it around his girlfriend's shoulders. He could stand the cold, but he couldn't stand Lily being uncomfortable in any way.
Lily smiled at James. "Thanks," she said softly, hugging the cloak tightly around her shoulders.
"No problem," he replied, grinning sheepishly and shoving his hands into the pockets of his school robes.
James was still getting accustomed to the duties of being a boyfriend. However, despite the fact that he had devoted six years of his life to chasing Lily and thus had never had a girlfriend, he was really quite good at it. The simple gesture of removing his cloak to warm her up, for example, proved it.
"So..." said Lily, breaking the silence that had ensued after James's last words. She looked out over the lake, which had frozen over due to the arrival of winter. Her breath appeared in puffs before her as she added, "How are you getting along on the Charms essay?"
"Erm...good..." said James. He cast a sideways glance at Lily before quickly looking away. Was it just him, or did she look bored? A wave of panic swept over him. He knew it; he wasn't saying enough. He wasn't being funny enough. Maybe she was wishing she was back in the common room with her friends, or maybe with that Ravenclaw, the one who--
James's head shot up, and he looked at Lily hopefully. "Yeah?"
"I just asked you a question," said Lily, unable to suppress a small giggle.
"Oh," said James lamely. His insides seemed to shrivel up as he swallowed hard and said, "Er...what was it?"
Lily shook her head. "You seem distracted."
"Do I?" asked James, his voice rising a pitch. He flushed and shoved his hands deeper into his pockets.
"Or maybe nervous."
"Can't imagine why you'd think that..."
Lily laughed and swatted James's arm playfully. "No, really, what's bothering you?"
James fought the impulse to run a gloved hand over the part of his arm Lily had just touched. He diverted his eyes back to the snow-covered ground before muttering, "Just the fact that I'm actually here with you."
Because his eyes were still fixed on the ground, James didn't see Lily's eyes soften in response, nor did he see her lips curve into a small smile as a faint blush rose in her cheeks. However, there was no way he could miss the way she slipped her hand into his.
The couple walked on in silence. Every once in a while, James's heart would give a small twitch, as if trying to tell him to speak up. However, he was perfectly content to stay silent and keep walking while reveling in the feel of her hand in his. It felt so nice.
At long last, Lily spoke up. "It's snowing," she murmured.
James looked up. Lily was right: Lost in his thoughts, he had not noticed the large snowflakes drifting lazily down from the grey clouds above them. Now, he stole another glance at Lily and saw that her dark red hair was covered in a light dusting of snow, and that a few snowflakes clung to her long lashes. She was beautiful.
"You have snow in your hair," Lily giggled, apparently oblivious to the fact that she was taking James's breath away just by existing. She lifted up a hand and brushed the snow off of James's messy locks.
James caught Lily's hand in his as she was lowering it. He didn't know what made him do it, but he didn't let go. Instead, he said with a chuckle, "You do too." However, he made no move to brush away the snowflakes on Lily's hair, as he quite liked them there.
"You're not going to return the favour?" said Lily with a grin. Her eyes sparkled with energy, and James couldn't help but feel as if he were falling in love with her all over again.
"You look pretty just the way you are," James blurted out without thinking. The instant he said the words, he realised how incredibly stupid he had just sounded, and promptly released Lily's hand in horror.
However, Lily didn't seem to think James's compliment was stupid. On the contrary, her cheeks turned even redder and she said looked down, saying quietly, "Thanks."
The snow, at that moment, seemed to be falling even more thickly around the two students, but perhaps this was because they had stopped walking. James noticed this too, and he couldn't help but feel as if he and Lily were lost in the middle of a storm, hidden from the rest of the world by the flurry of white surrounding them. It was a nice feeling, he decided.
Lily sighed. She moved closer to James, so that their arms were touching, then said, "I wonder what will happen when we graduate. I mean...the end of this year is nearing us with each passing day. I'm scared about having to leave Hogwarts."
Though James was distracted by the fact that they were so close, he still managed to choke out, "Well, whatever happens, I'm going to stick by your side."
Lily smiled up at him. "I know, James, because I'm going to do the same for you." She then let out another small sigh and laid her head down on James's shoulder. "But it feels like I'll be leaving everything secure about my life. And with Voldemort still out there and at large..."
Her voice trailed off, and James noticed how scared she sounded. His heart gave a painful lurch, and desperately, he said, "But we'll be safe. He can't directly affect us, we have nothing he wants. And if he ever does...if he ever does try to find us, we'll be prepared, right? Dumbledore wants us and the other Marauders to all join the Order, he's already mentioned it a few times."
"I'm scared that joining the Order is what will put us in danger," replied Lily, her voice trembling slightly now. "I'm just so frightened..."
Then, without thinking, James lifted his free hand -- the one that was not holding Lily close to him, for somehow, his right arm had wound itself around her waist while they were talking -- and began to gently stroke her hair. It was all he could do; he didn't know what else he could say to alleviate her fears.
"Are we going to be together forever, James?" said Lily suddenly, her voice barely audible but still very sad.
James exhaled sharply and said quietly, "Forever is a long time, Lily."
"I don't think it's long enough," said Lily. She tilted her head slightly so that she was looking directly into James's face. Her green eyes were shining with tears, but she was still smiling, although it was more of a forlorn smile than anything else. "I'm sorry for running away from you for so long."
James hugged Lily tighter to him. Despite the snow stinging his cheeks and the strong gusts of wind, he felt as though a small bead of light were pulsing inside of him, spreading its glow and warmth all over his body.
"Forever sounds pretty good," he whispered.
"It's so hot, even for May."
Harry nodded distractedly, barely registering the words Ginny had just said. A mixture of emotions was coursing through his body, and he was currently having trouble distinguishing the most prominent one. Confusion, happiness, disbelief, pride, happiness, numbness, elation, happiness...oh yes, he was definitely happy. But it had all happened so quickly, and because of this, Harry was still trying to sort out his feelings.
"Harry, are you even listening to me?"
"Yes," said Harry quickly -- perhaps too quickly. "I mean...yes. No, just yes." He stopped himself there, inwardly cursing himself for acting like an idiot.
Ginny stared at Harry for a few seconds, a mixture of confusion and amusement written across her face. Then, as if deciding she wasn't going to question his odd behaviour, she returned to their one-sided discussion about the weather.
"We got lucky today, you know. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky, and Cho was stupid enough to fly right at the sun during the last bit of the game, so I caught the snitch pretty easily."
Harry mumbled something about Cho probably having been too blinded by her tears to see where she was going, but didn't elaborate on the thought -- he didn't feel like discussing that girl right now. Not while he was here with Ginny and everything was perfect.
Ginny, however, got the gist of what Harry had said, and laughed. Harry couldn't help but wonder how he had never noticed how nice her laugh was, not too loud and not too giggly.
"It would have been nicer if you had been out there instead of me, though," she said wistfully, watching one of the giant squid's tentacles disturb the clear surface of the lake. "I know how much you wanted to play."
"Yeah," replied Harry. He shoved his hands in his pockets, frantically searching his mind for something witty to say. Unfortunately, he drew a blank, and was forced to settle into an uncomfortable silence.
"So, how long has it been?"
Harry glanced down at Ginny, perplexed. "How long has what been?"
"Since you started noticing me," she replied without the slightest trace of embarrassment.
"Well, I've always noticed you..." said Harry awkwardly.
Ginny rolled her eyes up at him and said, "You know what I mean. Since you started noticing me as someone other than Ron's little sister."
"I dunno," Harry answered truthfully.
"I never really stopped liking you, I don't think," said Ginny softly, fixing her eyes on the lake once again. "I just sorta pushed you out of my mind for a whole lot of reasons. One of them was because I got the feeling that we never would have worked out. I mean, look at Ron...he couldn't even handle the idea of me being interested in Dean, much less me being interested in you."
"I would've acted the same way he did if I had caught my little sister snogging some guy in my year," said Harry indignantly, partly in defence of Ron and partly because the old flame of jealousy had risen up in him again at the mention of Ginny kissing Dean.
Ginny shrugged and said thoughtfully, "I don't think he'll mind though. I mean, what happened back in the common room surprised me -- I was half-expecting him to run at you and throttle you when you kissed me."
"I was too," Harry admitted with a weak laugh.
The pair fell into silence again. In the distance, Harry could hear the giant squid thrashing its tentacles about in the lake; however, the deafening sound of his own heart pounding in his ears drowned out all other noises coming from his surroundings. He'd never felt so awkward with a girl, not even Cho, because she had always led their conversations. But now he was standing here with Ginny, and she wasn't saying anything. In fact, she seemed perfectly content to remain quiet -- quite the opposite of how Harry felt.
"So," said Harry loudly over the sound of his heart thumping against his ribcage, "we should probably be getting inside before Hermione and Ron come looking for us."
Ginny nodded. "Probably," she echoed.
Harry looked at Ginny, frowning. Her voice sounded oddly choked up. "Is there...anything wrong?"
"No," she replied, but when she finally turned back around to look at Harry, the fact that her eyes were gleaming with tears betrayed her words.
Alarmed that Ginny might be turning into another Cho, Harry said quickly, "Tell me about it."
"Oh, it's nothing," she said, smiling slightly and waving a hand carelessly. She blinked twice, then added, "I'm just thinking about the future."
"What about it?"
"Well, it's just that..." Ginny paused, as if trying to thinking of the best way to phrase what she wanted to say. "It's just that you're going to have to go off and be the hero, aren't you?"
"I...I guess," said Harry nervously. "But that doesn't --"
"And," continued Ginny, as if Harry had never answered, "it's like none of this had a point to it. You're gonna set off, find Voldemort, and try to kill him for the sake of the wizarding world. You might die in the process. Even if you don't, you'd forget about me after years apart, and nothing we're talking about now will matter anymore."
"That's not true!" Harry argued fervently. "I've been wanting this for so long, I just never knew it. I could never forget about you."
"You say that now," said Ginny darkly. She then exhaled loudly. "I'm being pessimistic now, aren't I?"
"Just a little bit..."
Ginny made a faint clicking sound with her tongue. "Okay, well, forget about it. Let's just try to enjoy this afternoon, shall we? After all, you still have more than a year here, so it doesn't really matter what happens in the future."
Harry hesitated. He didn't want to upset Ginny any further by prolonging the conversation topic she had attempted to end, but there was one last pressing question on his mind...
"Ginny, how long do you think we'll last considering the...y'know, circumstances?"
Ginny tilted her head to one side, continuing to hold Harry's gaze. For a moment, she did not answer; then, she said slowly, "I don't know, Harry. But as long as we can appreciate the time we do have together, we might find that one minute can feel like forever to us."
Harry smiled. Without even thinking about it, he placed his arm around Ginny's shoulders and hugged her to him.
"I like that idea," he said softly.
"She looks just like you, Lily."
And so she did, James thought as he gazed across the lake from where he sat at the couple standing on the other side of the shore. The girl had the same red hair, the same smattering of freckles across the nose, the same smile. And Harry...he looked just like him. Pride swelled up inside of James at the thought of it. That was his son...
At James's side, Lily gave an indiscernible nod of agreement and reached up a hand to gingerly wipe away the tears forming in her eyes. "I just wish...I just wish we were here for real. Just...truly here for him right now," she whispered.
James sighed. Lifting a hand, he began stroking Lily's hair soothingly -- just like he had always loved to do -- and murmured, "Oh, but we are."
Harry's eyes widened behind his glasses and for a moment, he nearly released Ginny in shock. Sure that what he had just seen must have been a mirage, he blinked several times, screwed up his eyes against the glare of the sun, and looked over the lake at where he thought he had just seen a man and a woman sitting.
But no, they were no longer there.
Harry shut his eyes tightly, counted to three, then opened them again. This time, he was half-praying that he would see the figures again, but once more, there was no one sitting across the lake.
Yet...they had been so real. And they had been the mirror images of him and Ginny.
"Ginny," said Harry sharply.
Ginny looked up. "What is it?"
"I think..." Harry swallowed hard, knowing that she would think he was insane for uttering his next words. "I think I just saw my mum and dad."
"Oh, Harry, that's --"
"-- impossible, I know," Harry finished. "But I'm positive that was just them -- look, they were over there --" He pointed to the empty shore across the lake from them.
Ginny looked over in the direction Harry was pointing, then shook her head. "I'm sorry Harry, but your parents are dead," she said quietly.
With a frustrated sigh, Harry realised Ginny was right. His parents were dead. What had made him even think, for one fleeting moment, that they had been sitting over there, watching him and Ginny?
But, as Harry glanced desperately one last time at the empty spot, he could have sworn he saw the two faint outlines of a red-haired woman and a man with round glasses exactly like his own waving at him...