Author's Note: This is my first one shot. Be nice, please? :) But feel free to write any criticism or comments/suggestions/questions in the reviews though. The fifth-year incident referred to here is, of course, the one presented via Snape's memories in OotP and DH.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I am not JK Rowling and as thus these characters/settings do not belong to me.
Sunsets never failed to amaze her. One moment the sun was gleaming bright and visible on its downward descent in the west, the next it was completely gone. There were times when she would go out by the lake to read a book, determined to catch the very last glimpse of the light of the day. But more often than not she would become too invested in her book and by the time she looked up it would be gone, with nothing more than a promise to return.
And at seventeen, Lily Evans felt that sunsets were a metaphor for her whole life.
Yes, the sun held its everlasting promise to return, but what if it rained tomorrow? What if there was a storm the following day or an eclipse? Or more probable yet, what if she didn't even live to see the sun returning to her?
Wincing and packing her books neatly into her book bag, she wondered when she had become so overdramatic.
Her answer was on the headline of that morning's Prophet. It announced in bold letters the numerous murders of several wizarding folk and that of many more Muggles. Voldemort was no longer a series of hushed whispers in Knockturn Alley that most chose not to believe. No, Voldemort was steadily becoming a promise for an uncertain future. So much so that people were beginning to fear his very name.
The prospect of possibly dying tomorrow or in the immediate future terrified her. Not because she was afraid of death itself but because there were so many things she wanted to say. Her thoughts drifted to one person in particular.
With another sigh, she mourned another missed sunset.
Lily started back toward the castle, looking forward to a good book and her comfortable bed. Lately, she had made it a habit to go to bed early for being in the Gryffindor common room while he was there (which was almost always) was almost unbearable… Lily was sick of the uncomfortable churning in her stomach every time her eyes fell on him. She had grown tired of willing him to spare her at least a glance. Worst of all was that even when he did look at her it was only for a few seconds and with the aloofness he reserved only for her ever since the incident with Severus a little over a year ago.
She was trying her hardest to dispel the wave of melancholia that had encompassed when she bumped roughly against someone.
"Sorry," she mumbled looking up. Her breath caught when she realized the very person who monopolized her thoughts a few seconds ago was the one she had crashed into. "I-it was my fau-" But before she could finish, he continued to move past her without stopping, as if he had bumped into a mere wall instead of Lily.
Lily stood there, transfixed by what had just occurred. James hadn't even looked at her and his indifference, she admitted reluctantly, stabbed her like an ice shard.
She felt the familiar prickle at her nose and the tears welling in her eyes. Instead of letting them fall, however, Lily sniffed angrily, drawing herself to her fullest height. Anger and determination burst in her, spreading a new sense of valor in her as she rounded on her spot and marched after him into the night.
"Hey!" she called after him, but she could have been shouting at the grass rippling in the night air for all the attention he paid her. "Potter, I am talking-"
He had stopped walking when he reached the foot of the tree he frequented the most with the other three. The same one she had been sitting under only minutes ago. Something about the way he stood, unmoving and gazing out into the smooth surface of the lake, killed her sudden burst of passion.
"I told you, Padfoot, I want to be alone-" he began angrily at the sound of her approach. But his sentence too was cut short when he caught sight of her. "Evans?" he asked, his expression slowly dwindling into one of confusion. "What are you doing here?"
"I…" she began, but her attention instead was focused on his expression, void of the characteristic glint of his eyes, or the ever present devilish smirk. Even in the moonlight, she could see the red blotches in his eyes.
Lily tried again, "I bumped into you back over there…" she began, eyes still fixed on his unusually stony expression.
Understanding flitted in his eyes. "Look, if you've come to pick a row about that, this isn't exactly the right time, all right?"
"What? No," she replied quickly, though it was a lie. She was intent on yelling at him when she set out after him. "I was just-" But again, she stopped, his grievous demeanor more than she could handle. "What is it?"
He raised his eyebrows.
Lily fought back the urge to roll her eyes. "Something's happened, hasn't it?" Her eyes fell on the crumpled piece of parchment he clutched in one hand.
James made no effort to reply, instead turning his attention back to the lake. It was obviously a cue for her to leave him alone, but Lily deliberately ignored it, taking a few determined steps toward him.
"All right, fine," she said at last. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to." Lily crossed her arms across her chest, annoyed at his reluctance to say anything. "But you can't spend the whole night out here, you know. Besides, it's almost curfew and I am prefect-"
"Mum died," he finally blurted.
The silence that ensued was almost deafening.
Lily felt an unpleasant twist of her insides, her arms loosening and finally dropping to her sides. A pang of guilt for being so upset over nothing stabbed her. "Oh, James…" she whispered, deliberating whether it was appropriate to touch him comfortingly in the arm. She was about to express her condolences, when he opened his mouth to speak again.
"Cancer," he said, his voice a little higher than a whisper. Lily was standing close enough to hear the strain in it. "It was really advanced from what the Healer explained in the letter," his hand flexed around the ball of parchment. "I didn't even know she was sick. She never once mentioned anything or-" his voice began to break and Lily's feet, on their own accord, pulled her a step closer to him. "Reckon she didn't want to worry me. At least that's what she would have said. If I had known, I would have- I-" But it was clear that it took everything in him to keep his voice steady. Lily felt her own voice inaccessible for her throat was tight.
With another horrid sinking feeling, Lily remembered second year and how James had to leave for a week, on account of his father passing away. He had no one left. Silently, without a single word, and not caring about the possibility he might push her away, Lily closed the distance between them. She flung her arms around his neck, pulling him down to her in a tight embrace. Though shocked at first, he soon began to relax into her, slowly allowing himself to bury his face in the crook of her neck.
They stood there in silence for what appeared to be ages, only swaying slightly in the breeze. He wasn't crying which, for Lily, made everything that much more heartbreaking.
"Comforting, isn't it?" he asked bitterly when they broke apart. "If Voldemort doesn't get us, then something else will."
She shuddered for he was vocalizing the thoughts that had invaded her mind constantly for the past few days. But she refused to admit it, especially when he stood there, defeated and overwhelmed with grief. "Oh, I don't know," she replied in the best light tone she could muster. "Diving off the Astronomy tower on your broom might do the trick."
James's lips twitched. "You've got to admit that was a brilliant stunt though," he said, despite himself.
"It was not," she returned sternly, but the effect was ruined by the smile she was fighting to repress. James did not miss this, a full on smirk on his face now.
"You found it impressive, Evans," he asserted with his usual air of confidence.
Lily opened her mouth but no retort occurred to her immediately. Those brief seconds of hesitance were enough to prompt his laughter.
"Oh, shut up."
James only laughed harder, swiftly jumping out of her reach as she sent a playful slap to his forearm. He almost stumbled on his own feet, however, and staggered before regaining his balance. It was then that Lily too started to laugh loudly.
James was the first to sober up, his laughter giving way to a chuckle and finally to silence. Lily followed suit, unsure of what else to say. They stood at the edge of the water, side by side without saying anything. Only the breeze ripping through the grounds could be heard. Lily began to wonder if she ought to say anything else, but there was no need to say anything because James was the one to break the silence. "Thank you," he said quietly.
Lily turned to look at him and smiled weakly at him in response.
Another silence, this one smaller and which Lily decided to break. "Now, come on," she started, gently taking a hold of his arm and tugging him toward the castle. James adhered but with raised, puzzled eyebrows. "I'm sneaking you into the kitchens. Food makes you feel better, yeah?"
James actually laughed heartily and out loud, probably at the notion of Lily sneaking a Marauder anywhere. He assumed a tone of mock concern as they walked, "But it's curfew and it's against the rules. We'll be in heaps of trouble if we are caught."
She beckoned to the prefect badge pinned neatly on her sweater in response and James chuckled again, shaking his head. "Prefect Evans is abusing her power for me. I'm flattered."
"You should be. I don't do this for anyone, you know," she said solemnly. "Consider yourself special."
They stopped at the foot of the giant oak doors. He paused, his hand on the brass handle, his eyes scrutinizing her quietly, almost as of deciding what to make of what she had just said. At last,finally reaching his conclusion, he beamed before opening the door and allowing her through with an exaggerated gesture of gallantry.
Sunsets never failed to amaze her but it was in those few seconds in which James gazed at her or in which she had managed to make him laugh that she remembered sunrises were what really took her breath away, what warmed her skin and offered her hope. It was, after all, those golden rays of sunlight peeking through the pink horizon before sunrise that brought with them the radiance of the sun and the beginning of a new day.
A/N: Thank you if you've read this far.
Reviews are much appreciated!
All my best,