A/N: The final season…exciting, isn't it? It is for me; I've written some serious misery for this story, and now I'm getting some optimism in there. Growing up is hard and confusing and it's easy to fall apart, but if you cling to the people you love, you'll probably be okay – that's the point I'm attempting to make.
Motivated by your reviews, "Make a Memory" by Bon Jovi, "The Way I Am" by Ingrid Michaelson, and "Let Love In" by the Goo Goo Dolls.
Enjoy, and of course review. It's okay to not be gentle this time, though, because I'm done being tender. I'm fearless. Hit me with all you've got.
For some reason, summer always reminds Lily of babies.
Well, maybe not babies specifically, but children. Young children. Children who are bright, energetic, curious, and interested. Children who are intuitive, who know so much more than people think they do, whose worlds are roughly the size of their backyards; children who love making messes and rolling down grassy hills; children who play and play and play and occasionally fight, but start playing again anyway.
Children who are wholesome, blameless, pure at heart and soul; children who laugh and cry and experience and need things.
Summer is bright; the world alight in the most sun England receives all year. Summer brings about gentle breezes lightly lifting up skirts and playing with ponytails; it brings bad barbeques in the thick air with all the neighbors, long days and nights free for giggles and gossip, sunshine despite the war taking over the country.
Summer tastes like ice cream, looks like the fireflies that she can never catch in jars, smells like honeysuckle, sounds like crickets chirping song in the backyard, feels like mosquitoes ripping and biting at various ankles a night.
Summer is a time out of time, a time that doesn't feel it's connected to this world full of bleak and rational things. No matter what's going on in the world, no matter how fed-up she is, she knows summer isn't about wallowing; it's about smiling even when things aren't okay, about enjoying these days that feel so few, these days that won't come back for so many months.
Summer is about children – children at the park until the sun begins to set, children buying ice-lollies and letting the melting juice run down their tanned arms, children being children and having picnics outside together. Somehow, everything is brighter with a child around; when she was a kid, summer felt like paradise.
Now, she's not a kid, and summer feels emptied of all those novelties she wrongly assumed would mean something this year; like a broken promise, a locket smashed to the ground.
It's July now, the peak of the brightness summer has to offer, but she wears jeans and old t-shirts. To her credit, she's gained five pounds and looks better for it, and she's wearing make-up again; and she even demanded a day off of work the other day, spending it taking a walk in the park where a pair of little girls reminding her achingly of her and her sister were talking on the swing-set.
Pump, pump, swing. Pump, pump, swing. Their small legs, working hard to keep them going, keep them soaring, keep them feeling like they were going so much higher than they really were. When they got tired and she was still there, they asked her so sweetly to push them, and she did, pushing them until they screamed with mixed horror and delight, pushing them until her own arms ached and she left the park.
Leaving was difficult for her, she recalls, because seeing those girls with their freedom and their closeness and dedication to each other reminds her of her own summer. Back when things were simple, and the most important thing she had to do was pick the right amount of friends to play with.
It's easier now, remembering things like that, when her existence was small and insulated. She can do it. Summer still entrances her, and she likes the possibility of it – the feeling of a blank slate, the feeling that the planet has somehow sat down in a back-row seat with popcorn to watch her make something of herself.
Winter stifles her, and summer sets her free again. She's spent a long time in captivity, but at least she's learning. Living on her own isn't as hard anymore. Work occupies her, and finally a few months ago, Marlene and Alice nearly rammed her door down trying to get in and see her. They had a girl's day out (Marlene has a tendency of being persuasive) and things felt right in the world, her two best friends at her side.
A week later, Alice had arrived again with news – James Potter was asking where she was. He'd been trying to get in touch with her for ages but couldn't. "Bad circumstances," was what he had apparently said. Alice wanted her to write to him.
By herself, she never would have. It would've been easy to put it off. But now that Alice was there, an unstoppable force of nature when she felt the need to be, there were no decent, explainable reasons for her behavior, and she had to do it. So she had.
That was back in May, though. James had answered her letter and told her he would come to see her – Alice knew where she was. She vaguely wondered when reading that how Alice was in contact with James, but she didn't ask. She only read the simple letter, a sharply wonderful but pungently bitter feeling sending chills down her spine and warmth into her stomach as she took in the terrible handwriting she had chastised him for, the way he wrote her name better than the rest of the words, the painfully familiar scent of him still lingering on the page.
If she thought she had missed him before, it was nothing to how she felt when she read that letter. She hugged it to her chest for a long time before she could part with it again. She couldn't wait to see him.
Now, in July, he sent her a letter a week ago apologizing for his lateness and saying he would meet her in front of her building today. She told him she couldn't wait, and she couldn't. But when today finally comes and he will be here, living and breathing and taking up space like she, she is oddly calm.
She wears shorts, for once, and a green shirt she knows looks good on her. She even puts on lipstick before she goes outside to wait. When she comes outside, he is already here – an hour early.
It takes her a moment to catch her breath, for this man has always had a horrible habit of taking it away from her. He's as lovely as he was in seventh year, but like her, he has grown up.
His face is thin, and he clearly took some pains to shave cleanly – his cheeks are quite pink. His eyes are bright and alert, as hazel as they came to her in memories, and he can't keep still. He never could, but somehow, she's glad he can't; she's changed too much, and so has everything and everyone else she knows and believes in.
Out of all the things that have been altered, he is the one she wants to stay at least somewhat the same.
So she clears her throat as he drinks her in, eager as she to do so, and she says the most eloquent greeting she can think of on the spot – "Hi."
He chuckles, that chuckle that drowns her in small instances she's heard it before in, and she finds herself beaming like she hasn't for a while. "Hi," he replies.
"Erm, you're early," she feels the need to point out.
"I gave myself time to miss a few of the Tube trains on my way here," he explains. "I didn't miss any, though, because I didn't oversleep this morning – so actually, I'm on time."
She laughs, the sound making her giddy. "Still as disorganized as ever, huh?"
"You know it." His smile is so broad; she wonders how his face can hold it in. She is struck by the sudden urge to come forward and touch him – touch his face, his nose, anything, really. But she doesn't. Not yet. It's not really the right time. She'll know when it is.
"So…" She drags her toe shyly on the grassy ground. "How've you kept? It's been a while."
"It has," he says, his tone suddenly solemn and almost anxious. "And I'm sorry it's been a while. Every time I tried to owl you, my silly owl didn't know where to find you. You didn't tell many people where you lived in a large city like London."
She shrugs, blushing. "I know. I was supposed to be discreet."
"You did your job a bit too well." He smiles, but lets his hand brush ever so slightly by hers, sending alarm bells going off through her body, despite the strange harmony in the gesture nonetheless.
She doesn't know what to make of him, so she stares into his face, stares into all those features she's missed more deeply than she could ever tell him in words, and purses her lips, trying to figure out how he feels and what he wants to say and why he's here and if he still cares about her.
There was a time when she knew exactly how to find all these things and more in his face, back in seventh year. Now she has to relearn those skills, relearn the man she loves – which is so peculiarly heartbreaking. She shouldn't have let him go in the first place.
But he's here now. Right here, in front of her, close enough to touch, close enough to kiss; no hallucinations, no nothing. She's just spent too much time on her own to be able to accept this, and she has a feeling he's figuring this out about her.
She's sure of it when he takes her hand ever so shyly in his own, and says seriously, "I've missed you."
Her throat mysteriously full, she attempts to clear it and doesn't look him in the eye when she says, "I've missed you too." Thinking these words is much different from saying them aloud with her own tongue, to a person who can seem so ordinary and so monumental to her at the same time. She takes one quick peek at his pools of hazel to see if he gets it.
He does. She knows this look from times she studied too many long nights in a row – it's the concerned look, the look he gives her when he wonders if she's not saying something, when he really wishes he could open up her brain and see what's going on in there.
She stares him down, helping and hindering him but surprising them both, and he almost touches her jaw, but then pulls back. "I…erm…do you want to walk?"
This is getting to be increasingly awkward, despite these emotions flashing across their faces like brief lightning, and she can tell he's dying to ask her some very blunt questions he doesn't feel he can say out loud, but it's too good to be here with him. She can walk. She can handle his questions. She has a few of her own, after all – as he said, it's been awhile.
She nods, though, and they walk around the courtyard together – not holding hands and not quite touching, but close enough to establish a sort of intimacy. His warm solidity is blissful to her, because her world has been undulating beneath her feet since she left school; he looks and smells and acts just like she did when she left him, and she appreciates this more than his coming here to see her. She could happily lie down beside him and listen to him breathe, it's so wonderful to be with him.
She doesn't say so, though; she only glances at him, briefly, and walks with him, wondering if he is waiting for her to speak. She decides to wait, and she is rewarded about a heartbeat later when he says, his voice strained, "Lily, I have missed you so much more than I could ever tell you. It's been hard, you know, not seeing you."
The obvious pain in his words and manner is hard to take, because she knows that if she spoke to anyone, she would sound the same. She knows all too well how he feels, and she says so. "It's been horrible for me too. I tried owling you so many times…but whenever I was ready to strap the letter to the owl, I just couldn't. I didn't know what to say."
"Anything would've done it for me," he says, looking down at her the moment she looks up at him, their eyes locking and promptly molting under the other's sincerity. "After seventh year…I never got to say the things I wanted to say. We left so quickly and suddenly, and I couldn't help but think we could've had so much more together…"
"We could've," she admits. She's been thinking about this a lot, as the weather got nicer and she spent more time outside instead of inside, her thoughts going on long walks and not coming back until late. She voices some of these things she's thought, her tone measured and careful: "We were just too young and epic for our own goods. I couldn't handle who and what you were, and you didn't understand who and what I was. Seventh year didn't leave us much time to catch up on what we missed."
"That's the worst part though, isn't it?" he says, musingly, urgently. "Not having enough time. There's a war going on, Lily, and I'm part of it. So are you. I just…I don't want it to be like this. I want to have eons with you, not a few stolen moments between work, not an owl or two when I miss you."
"It's not fair," she agrees, her old winter ache undermining her tone, but not quite taking it over. "But James, we can make it work if we want it to."
"Of course we can," he says, stopping them mid-step and holding her soft hand in his hardened one, looking her so deep into the eye it cuts into her like a knife, so deep that he lacerates her insides with his solitary stare. "But do you want us to?"
She feels the chill of his words, the things she's chosen to turn her head away from for as long as she's rejected him bringing an unpleasant reminder to this conversation. But she's not that girl anymore, she tells herself fiercely; she's different now. Like him, she has a better idea of who and what she is, where's she's come from and where she wants to go, and she's not going to make the same mistakes again.
She's not going to hide behind her misery. She's not going to shut him out, regardless of the war that's trying, and almost succeeded in stifling her. Life is for living, and that's what she has to do.
James is not just another man who's going to smash her to bits. He's James, for Merlin's sake…with all he is, with all he's ready to be for her, with the way he's looking at her now, how can she doubt that he is worth a shot? How can she doubt that she wants him, that she wants to sink into him, exhausted with hurt and levity and every shade of affection between the two?
So she looks him right back in the eye now, her old strength cascading through the various layers within her like a waterfall, and she says as intensely as she ever has, "I do want us to."
Something in him lightens with the fervor in her tone, but she's not done yet. He doesn't know why she wants to, and he should. She is tired of secrets and she is tired of being alone with what's wrong with her; after this strange, lonely year living as a woman on her own, she's at bursting point. She's got a person she has to be, and in the face of war, she can't do it as just Lily – it's okay to depend on other people, as she knows now, and she will. James.
That's why she comes closer to him, her hands touching and resting and reacquainting with his, and she says, "James, in seventh year, we started in the middle of a relationship. I don't want to do that this time. I want to start at the beginning and work my way through the end."
She rests her forehead against his, the two of them closing their eyes at the closeness, their noses grazing against each other like they can never have enough, as he whispers to her, "We don't have time."
"We'll make time," she whispers back, easing slightly away with agonizing difficulty, her hands moving to his face and tracing his cheeks, his nose, his mouth. "We're here now, aren't we?"
"We are," he says, his voice stronger as he gathers her face up in his own hands, strong and willful, almost afraid of how much he loves her. "We are here."
"And for as long as I'm here, I will be with you," she says, "because there's no point going into this without you."
"I love you," he says, so earnestly it seems to be coming straight from the depths of his very soul, the emotion so poignant in his eyes and everything else about him. "I always have."
"And I love you too," she says warmly but bravely, the words on her tongue truer than any she has spoken before. "I love you, and I don't want to spend any more time away from you."
"I'll move in tomorrow, if you'd like," he offers, smoothing out her tangled curls with his patient hand.
"I would like that," she says honestly. "I'd like that very much."
"Cool." He laughs softly, but his eyes never change as they greedily drink her in, as she drinks him back just as greedily, her every part of her fluttering like open doors for him.
In autumn, she remembered. In winter, she hid. In spring, she woke. And now, in the midst of summer, she is coming to her own; rediscovering with careful fingers that innocence she thought she had lost, rediscovering everything that is beautiful, rediscovering that while love can hurt like nothing else can, love can fix like nothing else can as well.
She knows with a conviction deep in her bones she'll never be able to explain that things are going to be okay now. Gone is the uncertainty and darkness that came with growing up, back in December. Gone is the notion that she isn't enough.
Right now, in the blazing summer sunlight, with his lips on hers after far too long, she feels lighter than she's been in recent memory. It feels good, to be light like this. She's white with her purity – as clean and whole-hearted and heartfelt as a laughing, exploring child of summer.
She feels refreshed; but more than that, she feels as beautiful as that unknowing girl he made love to on that last night before leaving all that was important in her young life behind.
Because now, when she finds in herself a resilience she never knew she had, when she has that wretched boy that made her feel so special as a little girl, she once again shines like a woman finally comfortable with being loved – and giving love in return.
Even in wartime, it all comes back down to those profound bonds wand sparks can't break; the bonds of people who love each other. So long as there's something there, she knows that humanity will recover from this war. She knows that people are all too willing to hold close the notion of loving someone when the radiance of the world crashes to the ground. She is one of them.
And now, as she stands here with him in her crappy apartment garden, watching the sun sink lower and lower in the erratic golden explosion in a sky that suddenly feels like a second skin instead of a pressured weight on her head, watching the dying light cast shadows on a world trying so hard to fight its inner demons, she is happy in the simplest way possible.
She knows what being happy really means. She knows why she's here, in one piece, at the end of all she has come to terms with this year. She knows what is important to her, and what she wants to live for, but also what she wants to die for, one day if the time calls for it.
She is ready for everything. She has found what she needs.
She breaks her kiss with great effort, smiling slightly at the beautiful face of a man who loves her, she rests her cheek on his shoulder, and feels him squeeze her closer, as though it would kill him to have to let her go. He looks down at her just as tears of pure, unexplainable joy brim around her eyes; and with the tenderness he has shown her even when she was seventeen and naïve, he kisses them away like he did so long ago, bringing back a host of memories that don't hurt as much as they did before. She remembers how this goes, and for once, she lets the amorous images of months past roll.
And then he kisses her lips, kisses them softly and carefully but so, so blissfully, and he holds her pale valentine of a face in his strong hands, kissing her and making his vast feelings and desires simple for her.
Autumn, winter, and spring, with all the painfulness they represent in her wrung-out mind, are gone now; and she is determined to keep her neglected summer alive, even when the sun goes down.
A/N: Review, por favor?