This was written for my darling friend Samantha's birthday! I know I'm posting this over a month late, but happy birthday again!

Anatui


Reasons to Be Missed

I force my eyes open violently to push away any remnants of that dream. What was that even about? I'm not sure if I understand, but, hey, a dream's a dream and I've never been one for analyzing the subconscious. Besides, if Padfoot found me while I was actually trying to figure something out… I dunno, but I think he'd be a bit disappointed in me. Moony might actually be proud. And Wormy'd just be totally confused, no idea what's going on. But that's just the way it is. Hmm, wonder what we'll be like in a couple years. Will we be the same? or will we all even be around to find out? Anything can happen.

Taking a deep breath, I sit up and take in another. There's something about oxygen that just… makes you feel good, helps you feel new and refreshed. Mornings do that, too, but I'm not so much of a morning person most days. Hmm, then, why exactly am I up at 5.15? I have no idea really, but, somehow, even though I'd gone to bed just before midnight last night, I'm not tired. It's weird. It's from that dream.

The dream was pretty simple really. I wasn't really part of it, I was just watching. It was all about me, though, and, oddly enough, I was missing. Now, that doesn't make much sense, but I wasn't ever in the dream. I was just gone. And everyone was wondering where I was, searching for me. Well, not everyone, but some people just aren't particularly fond of me, I guess.

What surprised me most, I guess, was the fact that it was only the other Marauders looking for me. They seemed to be the only ones that really cared. None of my other friends even noticed—all right, maybe in passing, but they were just like, "Oh, he'll show eventually. He always does," which, I'll admit, I usually do, but it was rather disappointing all the same.

But the guys were all really scared, and that made me scared. Watching them being afraid is just… almost life-altering. That was the worst part. The three of them were always looking through the school over and over and over, and they never found me. There were all these scary obstacles, like Filch and Darth Vader and a horde of prefects and I think You-Know-Who was there in a cloak or something, but none of that scared them. The fear they had wasn't that kind of fear. It was like the desperate kind of fear you get when you think a loved one is dead. It was the fear I felt when my dad died, and I know it was the fear Sirius felt when he had to leave Regulus behind at Grimmauld Place, even though the brothers were having a fight at the time.

I can still hear them screaming my name, calling for me, wanting me back.

I woke up when I figured out why it was so scary. If it were the kind of fear you get when one of your loved ones is dead, was I dead in the dream? I don't know. Maybe in the middle of the Hogwarts maze—somehow the school halls and corridors had transformed into a weird maze—there was my coffin with a rotting hand sticking out from under the partially cracked lid. Creepy.

But what does this dream even mean? If I were dead, why? Why would my subconscious be telling me to be dead? Or maybe it's that I will be dead. As far as I know, though, I'm not exactly a Seer, so I don't think so. Of course, everyone dies, so a prophetic dream about a person dying isn't necessarily prophetic in the least.

Grumble.

This is wasting my time. What's there to even really think about here? I'm not dead and everything's normal.

But that's just the thing. Everything is not normal. I'm not even sure what "normal" is anymore, honestly. A year ago, maybe it was normal, but so many things have changed. Voldemort is taking over the world, and anyone who thinks they can have a "normal life" has got to be utterly crazy. It's impossible to be normal.

Halloween's coming soon, and, a couple years ago, we Marauders did this huge bonfire by the lake. Almost the entire school came that night, and everyone just sat around this huge fire and told ghost stories and played Truth or Dare and just laughed. The war wasn't imminent then, and some people—a very few amount—didn't even know who Voldemort was, and now it's practically forbidden to say his name. People shudder at the very sound of it.

That Halloween night was normal. Kids just having fun and enjoying themselves—that's what kids are supposed to do, right? How can we do that now, though? Everything has changed, and, no matter how hard we try to be, we aren't the same. We've all changed so much, grown up—been forced to, more like. We can't be normal kids in a war like this against a man whose name makes people shudder. It's impossible.

And, you know, most of us here probably will die in the war. There are those who will put their lives on the line to save others, and there are those who will join Voldemort and become Death Eaters because they believe in his cause.

Join or be destroyed. That's what his tactic seems to be—and he's really good at it. People listen to him in situations like that, afraid for their lives or the lives of their families. So many would do anything to save the people they love. I know I would, too, so I certainly can't fault them for that. They're only doing what they can.

What can I do?

I have to do something. I can't just carry on with this life like everything is going to be all right and Voldemort doesn't scare the hell out of me. Truth be told, he does. I'm scared shitless. Sure, I'm a Gryffindor and that means I'm going to be brave and fight, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to be aware of the consequences and the possibilities.

He's evil, pure evil. I don't see how anyone could consider him anything but, and I'm so tired of him pushing everyone around. Someone has to stop him, and, if I don't, who will? Not that I'm saying I'm the only one that can do it, of course not. I just mean that no-one else seems to be stepping up to the plate, and I've really got nothing better to do. All right, so I've got school to finish, but I'm a seventh year and any dreams of being a Quidditch star or whatever are pretty much void now. Never a big fan of school, anyway, and just leaving now would save me the trouble of having to say goodbye.

But, when I do go—if I really decide to do it—and leave this place for good, what am I leaving behind here? Except my mom, everyone I love is here. Padfoot, Moony, Wormtail. All my other friends. My favorite teachers. My mentor, Dumbledore. Not to mention, of course, Lily Evans.

I'm not the same bloke she turned down a million times a year ago, but, despite everything she's said to me, I still love her. I always will. But she'll always think of me like I'm the same berk I was in fifth year, which I'll freely admit I was. Let's face facts here: I was never as perfect as everyone made me out to be, and I'm pretty sure that more people hated me than liked me, even if I truly thought otherwise at the time. Big head, remember? Well, it's gone, but, now that it is, I'm still not sure if I could ever be the person that Evans wants me to be.

She thinks I should be the most perfect angel, saving lives, standing up for the weak kids, all happiness and sunshine. To be honest, she needs to pull her head out of the clouds and realize that those same clouds are the things blocking the sun. She's so high up that she can see it, but the people down here on the earth can't. Voldemort stops the sunshine from getting through to us.

No, I can't be who she wants me to be, who she is. I don't even want to be that person. That person would be so out of it, so confused, so happy that it's verging on insanity. That doesn't make sense. That doesn't work with how the world really is. If you ask me, I wasn't the only one that needed to grow up—she needs to as well.

But, despite that, I still love her, not even really sure why. Padfoot's said a million times that she's the one that doesn't deserve me, but he's just like that, trying to make me feel better and all that jazz. It never really worked how he wanted it to, but the fact that he cared is what made me feel better. That's what best mates are for, after all.

Best mates—that's what I'm leaving behind here. My three best mates—the best of friends in the entire world. I want to stay with them… but I just can't. I have to go. This is something I have to do.

So, if I could one say last thing to each of them, what would it be?

Honestly, I have no clue.

I guess, I'd tell Sirius to stop being such a prat and to finally ask that girl he likes out to Hogsmeade before Amos Diggory snags her. Oh, and you should really calm down 'cause there are times when you're abso-bloody-lutely psychotic and it just can't be healthy.

And, Moony, don't beat yourself up so much about everything that's happened in your life. It's never been your fault, and you need to be able to move on and experience all the good things. No holding back anymore.

Petey, do be afraid to give life your all. You're every bit a part of the Marauders as I am, and you need to stop worrying about what people think of you. You're perfect the way you are.

Ahh, I just wish I could say that to their faces—and, you know, out loud. But they'd know. And they'd try to stop me. They'd probably realize before I even said anything just by the look on my face. That's what best mates do.

I just… I wish I could say goodbye to someone, though. Someone that won't try to stop me from leaving. Someone that won't even realize that's what I'm doing. There aren't many of those people that I want to say goodbye to, though. Except, maybe… oh, I dunno, she's pretty smart, but, at the same time, she doesn't really know me that well. She might not figure it out.

Eyeing the clock suspiciously, I push myself out of bed at 5.57, desperately hoping that that crazy morning person is awake and moving around, but, when I finally make my way down to the common room, hair and clothes messy as ever, I'm totally out of luck. Lily Evans is nowhere in sight, probably still in bed—where I should be, asleep.

I'm not sure what to do now. I really want to talk to her, but I can't go up the girls' staircase to find her. Besides, she may not take too well to waking up to my face. It's not like she hasn't made it entirely known that she's not my biggest fan. Well, we're kind of friends now, but, at the same time, we're still just trying to work together without killing each-other—or rather, her killing me. So having me be the first thing that she sees when she opens her eyes might not be the best idea.

So what can I do? I'd honestly like to get this done before any of the guys wake up because, at the mere sight of me, they'd notice something. I don't want them to notice anything, let alone discover my plans. It would be bad.

With a heavy sigh, I plant myself at the base of the girls' staircase. Lily's bound to be the first girl down, so there's not much point hiding myself. Of course, Moony gets up pretty early, too, sometimes, so I have to be careful. I sincerely hope Evans's internal clock is working correctly today because I really need it to be.

I really hate having loose ends like this. I need to tie them up, fix them. If they get a little knotted in the process, that's all right, too, because I already know that I'm not all that great at fixing things. Besides, there are so many things that are easily knotted. I don't want to make a mess out of this one, though. This is important.

Directly behind me, I hear a girl clear her throat. Obviously a girl because it's the girls' staircase, of course. A little hesitantly, I turn round to take in the view of the exact person I was looking for. I send her a small smile and say, "There you are. I was waiting for you."

She moves down a couple steps and sits down beside me, agreeing, "Yes, I suspected as much. Why're you up so early? It's not like you, James."

I shrug in response. "I dunno." Pause, reconsider. "All right, so I had this really weird dream, and then I couldn't go back to sleep. And I just really wanted to talk to you, Lily." I don't call her by her first name very often, so this catches her attention, puts her on guard.

She furrows her brow in confusion and asks cautiously, "What about?"

Taking in a deep breath, I prepare myself for the confession of a lifetime. "I'm sorry, Lily."

It takes her a moment to even realize what I'm saying, but, when she does, she understands my meaning perfectly. Her response, though, isn't exactly what I was hoping for. "I'm sorry, too," she says, reaching a hand out toward me as if to comfort, but she hesitates and lets it hang in the air for a moment before pulling back.

I half groan and half sigh. "No," I say rather snappishly, "seriously, don't do that. I'm really sorry, and there's no need for you to mock me by saying it, too. You have nothing to apologize for. Except maybe those couple times you gave me a broken nose or two. But, anyway, what do a few broken noses mean in the long run? It's not like we'll ever have the chance for you to make me bleed all over your jumper again, so we might as well cherish the memories."

The longer I speak, though, the more worried she gets. She's a lot smarter than I want her to be right now. "James, what are you talking about? What do you mean?" Luckily, she hasn't entirely caught on.

I strive to reply, but the words don't come as easily as I would've hoped. "I just… I, um—can you make me a promise, Lily?" I finally manage to spurt out.

"Yes, of course, what is it?" she says, almost getting desperate now.

"After everything's over and we've all gone our separate ways, I just want you to remember me for all the good things. I don't want to leave knowing that you still think I'm the same prick I always was. Can you do that for me?"

"But, James, we're friends, nothing's going to happen—we'll always be friends, won't we?"

"Just promise me this."

"All right, I promise, I swear—doesn't mean I like it any better."

I laugh at that and add nostalgically, "I didn't expect you to. Goodbye, Lily."

I don't think she realizes what I mean by that, but she has to notice something. I usually don't say "goodbye." As the other Marauders know, "goodbye" has been the bane of my existence for the last three years after my father died. The last thing he said to me before he passed on was "goodbye," and I don't think I've ever said it since. At least, I haven't said it without meaning it wholeheartedly. But I mean this.

I bet that I won't ever see Lily Evans again—and I've always been a pretty good gambler. So, if I'm wrong, I'll throw everything away and ask her to marry me. Chances are, I have about the same probability of getting her to marry me as I have to see her again.

I push myself to my feet, send her one last forlorn smile, and make my way up toward my dorm to pack my things as quietly as I can before any of the others decide it's a good time to wake up. I don't think they'll ever forgive me for leaving, but I wouldn't be able to forgive myself for not leaving—to make a difference in this war and, more importantly, to find some way to protect them. I just hope that I leave behind some reasons to be missed because I'll certainly be missing them.