Title: Fireflies

Author: HelplessTurtle

Summary: From the beginnings of Voldemort's rise to power to the end of the Final Battle, characters are introduced to the powerful message of the gift of fireflies. The characters change according to the most recent chapter. Ch.1:Dumbledore&James

Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter and all the characters, objects, and wonderfully magical ideas in it do not belong to me in any form or fashion.

Author's Notes: This fanfiction has been lurking about in my laptop for quite a few years, and I wrote this before I read OotP (quite a while after the book itself came out, however). Thus, many things may be non-canon or AU. Not OotP, HBP, or DH compliant!

Late summer evenings always held a peculiar mystery to those who had the time to dwell on nothing, he thought. The remnants of the oppressive midday heat would fade to a floating, comforting warmth, with just a whistle of the chilly autumn winds to come. No clouds littered the sky tonight, the myriad of colors on the palette above smooth and churned to a flawless rainbow of gold and purple. The wavering flames of the sun had already slipped behind the silhouetted trees, its glistening red shining in the last hour before fading away. Already, a few stars twinkled weakly on the shadowed side of the canopy, blurred together with the ever-stretching shadows cast by the ancient buildings of Hogwarts.

Only one occupant disturbed the cool, tickling breeze. His once auburn hair, now white, shone as the strands fluttered over his robes. Spread over the grass, the favored light blue cloth seemed to take a shape of its own. Indeed, that frail shape was the only form that stood out from the rest of the flat grounds that surrounded it.

He was able to identify the approaching footsteps from behind before the person had reached him. Sssh…sshh…the grass slid along the worn shoes, flitting from side to side. The ground shivered slightly, little clouds of dust rapidly floating up before settling down again with a sigh. Although he had long since been considered one of the elderly, his senses had not lost their keen shine.

"Headmaster Dumbledore?" a voice ventured. It was slightly coarse, like fine shavings of wood, and inquiring. He was quickly able to pick out the somewhat high-pitched, musical voice. Smiling slightly to himself, he turned slowly to look behind him, patting the ground beside him with a weathered hand.

"Mr. Potter! How nice to see you. Please, do sit down."

The young boy stood there awkwardly for a moment, a limp chain of flowers dwindling in his left hand. His hazel eyes looked undecided behind his flying bangs and twinkling glasses, but after a moment, he joined his elder on the ground, folding his legs under him in that agile way that only children are able to do.

The wizard smoothed his palms over his knobby knees, then looked over his own spectacles at the student fiddling before him. Several pieces of grass had caught onto the boy's jumper, like a springy green on a woven backdrop of burnt maroon.

"What brings you out so late, James?"

"I—I…" he stammered for a few moments, flushing, "I had to get this, sir."

The Headmaster reached out, taking the chain of flowers. Little more than weeds, they were, but beautiful, nevertheless. Dainty white petals surrounded a tiny yellow center, strung together, end-to-end, by their long, graceful stems. A whimsical little past time.

"What wonderful craftsmanship! Did you make this?"

"Oh, no, sir. It's Lily's…Lily Evans. She left it outside near the lake, so I offered to go and get it."

"Very chivalrous." He recalled having seen the group of students together, under the shade of the trees. After a long first week of classes, many of the first years had ventured out and joined the upperclassmen, enjoying the opportunity to relax. The little flowers grew in bounty between the roots of the trees, and made an especially crowded carpet of white underneath the perilously waving branches of the Whomping Willow. The headmaster's eyes sparkled with amusement, and James seemed to have sensed it, for he started protesting.

"I didn't do anything to it, honestly! Lily wanted to get some flowers from under the Whomping Willow, and she didn't know it was going to hit her! I had to do something!"

Indeed, he had done something. Leaping up from his reclining position against the string of boulders on the shoreline of the lake, he'd sped over to the magical tree, tripping comically on one of its roots. The surprised girl had looked up from her bent position over the flowers to see James dangling, upside down, before her face. She'd giggled, pulling on his hair. At that moment, the tree uncurled its branch from the boy's ankle, and they'd both fallen in a heap in the little flowers. Lily had managed to grab a handful of the pretty flora before leaping up and dashing off, laughing. Luckily, none of them had been hurt.

To Albus Dumbledore, it was very obvious that James was smitten with Lily. Puppy love, he liked to call it. However, he mentioned none of it to the boy sitting next to him still trying to justify his actions. He seemed to have forgotten his shyness, eyes and glasses flashing as he demonstrated what had happened.

"And then I fell!" he blurted.

At that moment, his flailing fingers connected with a heavy glass jar by his hip. With a ping, the glass teetered, then fell over into the grass.

"Oh! What's this?" James peered into the jar curiously, holding his hand close to his body. The headmaster chuckled, cradling the jar. The metal top was missing, instead sealed with a scarlet and white checkered cloth and a rubber band. The cloth looked haggard, many holes frayed at the edges from their gaping positions at the top. Inside, several lights twinkled and glittered, flitting from glass wall to glass wall.

"These, my boy, are fireflies. Go on, give the jar a little shake."

Tentatively, the young boy reached out, nudging the jar a little so that it rolled over a clump of old summer grass. Disturbed slightly, the bugs flittered, shining their lights in little patterns as they did so. Then they continued ambling along the side of the jar, fluttering about indignantly as a wizened hand righted the jar.

"The little creatures are entertaining, aren't they? I like to collect them on summer evenings. Hogwarts always has plenty."

The reply was immediate. "Where?"

"Perhaps I could show you." The edges of the headmaster's blue eyes creased in laughter. "Here, help me up, I'm not as young as I once was."

Quickly, James scrambled up, dusting himself off in light, rapid movements before cradling the jar in his arm. With his other, he helped pull the headmaster up from his position on the grass. The older man took his time fluttering his robes about before accepting the jar again. Both headed off to the direction of the lake.

"I read about fireflies the other day." The voice was an eager chirp.

"Really? What did it say?" Headmaster Dumbledore loved to hear a student with a thirst to knowledge. Hardly a first year yet, and the young boy seemed to be collecting a multitude of knowledge already.

"It said that they were really good for the stuff in the middle of the night. Like…crawling into someone's bedroom and letting the bugs in. They'll wake up in the middle of the night and see lots of pretty lights, and then they'll wake up in the morning to see all of these black bugs crawling around!" he said enthusiastically.

Laughter bubbled up. Good for pranks, indeed. What a little delinquent.

"If I ever see lots of black bugs in anyone's bedroom, I'll know who did it!" the headmaster said, peering over his glasses in mock severity. James straightened his features in innocent protest.

"I wouldn't do it!"

In the brief silence, the long, dried grasses at the pond's edge sang as they slid past each other. The water lapped up in regular, soothing motions, and right where the froth formed against the grains of sand, many little lights pranced about.

"They're beautiful!" The awed whisper floated in the darkness.

"Would you like to help me catch a few more?"

Without a second thought, James was splashing at the water's edge, yelling and laughing. The lights whizzed about, frightened, and in his cupped hands, he managed to trap one as they flittered away. He peeked in, a delighted look blossoming across his face.

"I have one!"

Together, they carefully deposited the bug into the jar before sealing it again. Soon, it was lost to sight, its appearance exactly that of its friends inside. Their lights reflected into the darkening night, glowing warmly like tiny, mobile candle flames. Sensing the black cloak that had descended already, the headmaster turned back towards the castle, where a few orange flickers stood out in the shadowed windows. James followed at his elbow, the limp daisy chain entwined with his left fingers once more.

"Do you know what fireflies stand for, James?"

The boy shook his head, raven hair hidden in the night. Only the glint of the golden rims of his glasses gave any hint of motion, setting what remaining light there was left into a goodnight dance.

"Well, then that makes two of us," he sighed. It wasn't remorseful or disappointed; rather, it was like that of a tired old man. "However, I like to think of it in my own way."

"And what's that, sir?" James peered up curiously.

"They're little creatures, taken to fancy. Whenever it is dark, they're there, like bobbing little stars. You've heard people say to leave a candle in the window if they're waiting for someone to return home?"

"Yes, I think."

"Very good! It's very similar, the idea. They're a sign of welcome."

Hazel eyes peered into the jar once more, flicking the glass in a tiny little motion. The fireflies sprang to life, twirling and spinning in a thousand and one intricate motions and shapes. He nearly walked into the jar as the headmaster stopped before the door, his glasses clinking against the side. He put up one hand to steady the jar, the other to straighten his glasses.

"I never thought of it that way."

"You'll get the chance to learn and think as much as you like. But, meanwhile, leave school for the morrow. If I have guessed correctly, Filch will be here to give you curfew if you're not in your bed in half an hour!"

"Oh! Erm…thank you, sir, for the lesson."

The professor's eyes twinkled, and he gave the student before him a small, slow wink. "Of course. Welcome to Hogwarts, James."

The young boy was left standing in the doorway, watching the ambling shadow with light blue robes and long white hair disappear down the corridor. In one hand was his daisy chain, and in the other, the jar of fireflies, still glowing comfortingly in the dark.

Author's Notes: A short little ficlet with friendship but no romance. I hope you enjoyed it!

Next chapter: James welcomes Lily to his heart. This one will have a touch of romance, and their relationship is most definitely not OotP compliant!