Lily fought to control her sadness, as another wave of emotion swept over her. How could this have happened? Did her parents even understand what and why, in the last few moments?
She sat alone, watching the fire in the Gryffindor common room. Alone, because it was- she checked the clock over the mantelpiece, then shook her head, surprised and yet not- 3 a.m. Alone, because this despair was something she couldn't share with anyone. The wave was so big, and if she let it out, if she told anyone, anyone, how alone she was feeling, she might never stop spilling out.
The fire flickered, attempting comfort, as she remembered her parents. The smell of baking, her mother's face as Lily practised her Amortentia in one of her saucepans on the stove, her father's delight at seeing that Head Girl badge at the beginning of this year... Magic was not something they knew much about, Petunia keeping them firmly rooted in the Muggle world, but Head Girl was something they understood.
Had they understood as the Death Eaters closed in? There was nothing they could have done to defend themselves- neither of them could use magic; they were attacked because of her and she should have been there to protect them. That she wasn't was something for which she would never forgive herself.
A tear slipped past her iron self-control, gliding down her cheek. Lily felt it, and remembering all the "single moonlit tear" crap in her sister's romance novels, quickly wiped it away on her sleeve, not that anyone was around to see it at this time in the morning. However, this quick action was undone as she caught sight of herself reflected in the window: a marriage of her mother's hair and her father's eyes, bringing them both sharply back into focus in her mind. The single trickling tear turned into a torrent.
Her friends had tried to support her, comfort her, when she came back after the funeral, but in a way Lily felt that she deserved to be miserable. In any case, Alice was daily more absorbed in Frank, although she'd tried to be there for her friend, and Marly- well, she was just Marly, and not overly brilliant at being sympathetic in a way that didn't annoy the hell out of Lily. Remus... he'd had a full moon to contend with in the past few days, and Lily couldn't blame him for not coming to talk to her.
In fact the only person she numbered among her friends who hadn't tried to offer her more than a few cursory words of sympathy (without a good reason, she added, being scrupulously fair to poor Remus) was Potter. They'd finally become friends after he handed her a tissue then studiously ignored her crying over Sev's calling her a Mudblood, before planning a highly inventive prank with her to retaliate. She'd been surprised when he was named Head Boy over Remus, but he'd grown up, stopped the malicious pranks- in all, was less of an all-round arrogant twat. It was during his seventeenth birthday celebrations she'd heard the news. She didn't think he could be that sore over her ruining his birthday party.
But he'd only said about four words to her since her return to school- "Hi" and "I'm sorry, Lily". Beyond that, nothing. He hadn't even asked her out to try and cheer her up which was a shame, because- she could have done with one of his ridiculous proposals right now, she thought hastily. Two weeks after her parents' deaths was not a good time to realise that she missed James too. Oddly, because he was right there, but this was the most distant they'd been since becoming friends at the end of fifth year.
She made no attempt to wipe the tears off her face, even though they were running in salty drops off her chin, and her voice was so choked the anguish couldn't escape as sound. She cried for everything- for her parents, for the innocent girl Petunia had been before Hogwarts had happened, for the innocent girl she had been two short weeks ago. For James, for realising she wanted him only as he no longer wanted her. Although if she was honest with herself, always the hardest thing to be, the seeds could be found long before that: in a look outside Charms as she turned down another proposition, watching him leave to help Remus on the night of the full moon, many more precious memories under constant review in the museum of her mind.
Her mother sewing the badge to her new robes- Lily could have done it in two seconds with a Sticking Charm if only she'd asked. Tuney desperately trying to get her wand to work for her. Her dad outside gardening in his flat cap. James with that fierce look in his eyes, staring at her as he scored that goal in Quidditch...
She stood up silently, the flames dwindling to a glimmer as the wood supply ran low. Her freezing feet thanked her for stopping sitting on them with a sharp onset of pins and needles as the blood rushed to them. She shivered and tied her dressing gown tighter over her nightdress.
She didn't think about where she was going or what she was doing, because if she did that then she wouldn't be able to follow through, and there was nothing more stupid than breaking your own heart. She followed her feet as they travelled up the boys' stairs to the seventh years' dorm, stumbling occasionally as her toes caught on the steps or the tears clouded her vision.
When she arrived, she opened the door carefully. Sirius and Peter slept like the dead, Frank was with Alice still in the Room of Requirement... Remus had the wolf's hearing, even after the transformation was over. She wondered briefly what she was doing, how she would explain the Head Girl coming up to the boys' dorm in the middle of the night to see the Head Boy. Was she insane?
No more so than usual, the part of her brain that had told her she loved James answered. The curtains to the window by his bed were open, and the room was lit in greys by the crescent moon. She took off her dressing gown and dropped it carefully on the floor, before drawing back the curtains round his bed and slipping through, shutting them again behind her.
He was asleep. She admired his profile momentarily, and wondered if he'd ever looked at herlike that, before blushing profusely. Thank God he was asleep, but not for much longer...
"James?" she hissed, poking him. "James?"
His eyes flickered open, his messy fringe falling across them until he pushed it away. Even without his glasses, even in the grey half-light, he'd recognise that hair, that girl... the only one. "Lily?"
"C-can I stay here?" she asked, wiping away the tears which still persisted in falling. It only hurt more when she looked on what she'd lost, but at the same time she had the strange idea that he was the only one who could comfort her. I'm sitting on your bed. I just woke you up at 3 am for no reason. I am certifiably insane.
"Okay," he said, shuffling over to give her more space before peeling back the cover. She immediately covered her cold feet, then slid down the bed to join him, lying on her back in the warmth he had left and looking at the ceiling. Another sob racked her body. He hadn't even asked why she was here...
Did he really need to? that other part of her brain replied.
His arm wrapped around her shoulders, pulling her face into his pyjama shirt. He jammed his glasses on with the other hand, looking down at her. She was like a deer startled in wandlight. No sudden moves...
"Lily?" he whispered, trying to disguise the tremble in his voice as her hand trailed across his chest, reaching to hold herself closer to him. He hoped so much that this wasn't a dream, even if right now she was distraught. She'd chosen to let him in at last.
"Y-yes?" she replied, breaking the flow of tears as she looked up and her eyes met his, her breath catching in her throat, and again as she realised that he was giving her his fierce look and she couldn't look away.
"I'm sorry," he said. "About your parents. I'm really bad at this sort of thing. I don't know what else to say."
A sob caught in Lily's throat, turning into a giggle. James Potter, the eloquent Marauder and Prankster Extraordinaire, was lost for words? When she thought of all the detentions he'd talked his way out of... she hurriedly bit back the laughter which was trying to follow- so soon after the funeral she shouldn't be giggling in some boy's bed!
He caught the smirk while it was still on her face. "It's not disrespecting their memories to laugh," he told her, finally getting some words out. He pulled the cover tighter over them, shivering as a cool draught circulated the dorm room.
Lily smiled. That was more like the old James, the one she had loved. And maybe he had only been distant because he didn't know what to say, not because he was pissed about his party or he'd stopped liking her. "Ask me out again then," she told him, pressing her forehead to his collarbone, tears drying. His pyjama top was soaked. The pressure and fusion of bone against bone was reassuring and strong.
It was the wrong thing to say, she realised, as his body tensed and lines etched into his face. "I know I'm supposed to be gentle with the grieving girl, but are my feelings just a joke to you? I've made it fairly obvious over the years that I love you, and all you've ever done is laugh. I know you need a joke right now, but that is not going to be it." He was shouting by the time he finished his speech, shaking with rage but still holding Lily tenderly.
Lily's eyebrow raised, her brain running into superspeed. She reached over the edge of her bed and into her dressing gown pocket for her wand, pointing it at the hangings and muttering "Silencio". She turned back to James. He meant it? And he loves me? And I've wasted this time, and- my parents have just died, I shouldn't be thinking about some boy. The treacherous part of her brain replied –not even the love of your life?
Smiling widely, she looked up at James. "I thought you only asked because I was the only one you could rely on to say no! And you have to admit the asking did get steadily more ridiculous. I shouldn't be thinking about this, about us, not now- but I love you too, and I am. Now, please ask me out again," she ended, wiping the last tear away with the collar of his shirt.
"Lily, will you go out with me?" James asked as ordered, a huge grin breaking out on his face.
"Yes," she replied with a slightly damp smile. Okay, so maybe she shouldn't be this happy right now, but she was fairly confident that her parents wouldn't want her to be miserable forever, and this was like groundwork, right?
James pressed his lips to her forehead. She turned her face upwards, seeking his, but after a short, speaking peck he broke contact. "No more, not now, wait until you've finished mourning," he told her, smiling sweetly through his now dislodged glasses. She gently removed them, placing wand and glasses on his bedside table before hugging herself to him again.
He'd pulled her back, the wave of sadness diminished to a much more manageable level. Maybe tomorrow she'd talk to Alice and Marly, cry a bit more and let James hold her hand tightly and comfort her, without fear of engulfing them all in her depression. And she'd finally got James how she wanted him, and he'd never actually gone away. Tonight was more than want. For the first time since she could remember, Lily had needed someone to support her.
And James had been there.
A/N:I owe Snow Patrol for this one, particularly Set The Fire To The Third Bar which I've had on repeat while I've been writing it. All reviews are appreciated, even criticism if it's constructive!