Chapter 13 - Epilogue
Lily Evans jumped awake violently, sitting up poker straight in the large four-poster bed she found herself in. The chilly early morning light streamed through the large windows of the dormitory, striking her harshly in the eyes. The curtains of the bed were neatly tied up as always, offering little protection from the usually gentle morning light that Lily was used to waking up to. She raised a hand to shield her eyes from the unexpected brightness, and lowered it quickly, surprised to find her brow damp with cold sweat. Alice turned over restlessly in the next bed along, clutching her pillow and murmuring something incoherently into it as she burrowed deeper into the covers with a distressed expression. Lily swung her shaking legs out of bed intending to wake her friend up from her nightmares- but why are my legs shaking? she thought worriedly, before changing her mind and curling up in the heavy blankets, an uncomfortable feeling settling deep in her stomach.
The hideous sense of unease clung to Lily all through the day like soaking clothes, distracting her mind from it's usual sharp duties. As it were, she floated through the day, barely noticing the uncomfortable mood that seemed to have settled over Gryffindor table at breakfast. She did not spare a thought for the unusual quietness that consumed half of the members of her potions class, focusing more on the deja vuthat haunted her than the fact Severus went an entire lesson without being harassed simply because nobody seemed to be feeling up to it. At lunch she discovered it was very difficult to eat and brood at the same time, leaving her no extra energy to notice the silent, sidelong glances that were being shot frequently along the table between usually raucous members of her house. And if Remus was quieter than usual as they completed their prefect duties, well, that was no business of hers. Maybe he was coming down with something; he did look rather pale after all. They skirted around each other as they went through the usual motions of the evening routine in the growing moonlight, until eventually Remus muttered something about taking a bath and scuttled away, leaving her to make her own way up to the tower.
Lily walked quickly, still not entirely comfortable with being out on her own in the castle after dark, buried deep in her thoughts of… well. That was the problem. Despite a whole day spent searching her mind, Lily found herself continually coming up blank. Feelings and emotions swam up occasionally, unnerving without any thoughts to connect them to. A pitiful aching for something was the most common, alongside moments of alternating despair and a strange resigned feeling. She was beginning to feel nauseous at the unfamiliar sensations and the strangeness of the day, which was certainly not helped by a tiny voice in the back of her head as she clambered through the portrait hole, noting that she hadn't even seen him around today…
James crashed headlong into the tall figure that half fell, half climbed through the entrance to the common room, sending the contents of both their bags all around them. Half of the crowded room had looked up to seek the cause of the commotion, and seeing nothing more interesting than two tangled up students, carried on with their various evening tasks, disappointed that there was not anything more interesting going on that could demand their attention away from homework and boredom.
"What on earth do you think you're doing, hanging around behind the portrait hole?" Lily fumed, shaking her hair out of her face as she bent down to gather up the scattered parchment, books and quills that decorated the floor around them. She sighed, and sat back on her heels to survey the damage. "I don't even know if half of this belongs to me or you, so you're going to have to help." She turned, half expecting James to be using the situation as an excuse to propose to her, and stopped, sitting awkwardly on her feet and gaping in his general direction.
James Potter had just nodded at her silently, and was gathering up his things from the floor. No marriage proposals. No invites to Hogsmeade. Not so much as a lewd wink in her direction, or Sirius' either for that matter, who was being very uncommonly quiet over by the fireside on his own.
'James?' she asked uncertainly, tentatively gathering up a few more scattered pieces of homework. He looked up slowly, and gave her a gentle smile. "Are you... okay?" she continued, hardly believing she was asking the question. He laughed, not quite as raucously as usual, and sat down to lean back on his heels against the noticeboard beside them.
"Yeah, I guess. Just a bit off today, Evans, no idea why." James relaxed against the solid wood of the post he was leaning against, and let his head fall back to stare up at the large windows where the sky was almost completely dark, not a single star visible in the inky blackness outside. He let his eyes flicker sideways, where he saw Lily lower herself to sit cross legged amongst the mess of their spilled bags, ignoring the disapproving tuts from the seventh years at the nearest table to the entrance. "You too, eh?" he said softly, returning his gaze to the window.
"I suppose. I don't know why." Lily sighed, pushing the rising feeling of loss away once again as it filled her chest. She turned to look at the boy sitting next to her. He sat, not confidently sprawled as he usually was, but with his knees pulled up to his chest like a child as he stared out into the emptiness of the sky outside. James turned suddenly, to meet her gaze, and they sat in silence for a moment.
"You haven't tried to hex me in almost 24 hours, Evans."
"Yeah, well. You haven't proposed to me in almost as long. I think we're slipping in our old age."
James laughed, easier this time, some of the usual confidence that filled it working it's way back in. They sat comfortably, surrounded by the scattered mess of their adolescence around them, with a distinctly adult and untraceable feeling of loss, and love hovering in both of their hearts. This was a James Potter she was not familiar with in the slightest, Lily realised with a jolt, taking in his expression and thoughtful gaze. No childish arrogance remained in his vulnerable position on the floor, and even the cockiness of his voice seemed to be toned down many degrees. This was a James Potter she could maybe not be compelled to hex twenty times a day – one she could definitely get on board with.
"No use dwelling on it though, right?" James said suddenly as he edged closer to the girl next to him, moving cautiously as he kept one eye in her direction, trying to gauge her reaction.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, we both feel like crap, that much is clear. But there's no use in thinking too much about it, because I've tried that all today and god it doesn't make you feel any sort of better in my opinion, I feel even more like crap and I don't even know WHY and then that makes me feel worse and-"
Lily stood up slowly and stretched, reaching for her wand to gather the remaining objects scattered on the floor into a neat pile. She grinned at the dark haired figure who sat on the floor still, and offered out her hand, feeling pleasantly surprised when he took it and heavily pulled himself up and mimicked her cleaning spell with little effort. She smiled, and turned to make her way up to the spiral staircase that led to the dormitories, but paused after a few steps to face James again.
"You know, James, if you were to maybe ask me what I was doing next Hogsmeade weekend while not being a berk for once, I couldn't possibly say what my answer might be." she grinned, and continued to walk across the room. "I might have an answer tomorrow though." she called back across her shoulder at the stricken boy.
James Potter stood in the common room, his emotions running circles through his mind, alternately informing him of the fact he was madly shocked, desperately sad, and still attempting to deal with a very adult feeling of loss and resignation. He shook his head, and made his way over to the sofas by the fire to try and make sense of everything that had happened, and was apparently still happening, to utterly confuse his head. Still – maybe it was best not to dwell on it in the end, he thought as he settled down into an armchair.
Outside, the cool wind blew gently across the castle grounds, and in a very high tower, an old man sat with a very peculiar magical object in his hands, swirling with black inky substances that were neither gas nor liquid. A basin of forgotten memories, soon to be remembered only by a quiet, thoughtful old man, who would once again take it upon himself to carry around knowledge that would tear lives apart, in order to protect those who needed to be protected.
"After all, it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - 1991
Oh my god, I cannot believe I have finally finished this. I love this story, I loved writing it and I love each and every one of you for reading, reviewing and hopefully enjoying it. I hope I have given you all an epilogue worth reading, and I would LOVE if you reviewed just one last time for me. Thank you all so, so much for sticking with my ridiculously erratic updates and occasional less than quality 3am writing 3 Thank you!