Sunshine flooded the room as James pushed back the curtains. A perfect breeze soon followed as the window was opened, cooling the slightly stuffy kitchen. In the backyard, a hummingbird buzzed around the feeder that Lily had put out last week and a rabbit sat nibbling on the lawn. When he swished the wireless on with his wand, his favorite song had just begun playing, and James wrestled the urge to Reducto the wireless into pieces. If he did that, Lily would know.
His day had started out as nothing short of textbook perfect. Sunshine? Check. Blissfully cool weather? Check. Waking up next to a gorgeous woman and shagging her senseless? Double check. But James wanted to start the day over again, wake up to rain and rubbish music and a humid house. That would have been far more appropriate for the day's event—that inevitable goodbye.
James thought the sex would help because sex, in the world of James Potter, could fix just about any disaster thrown his way. When he touched her, ran his hands over her every inch of skin, drawing long moans from her lips, he felt utterly numb for the first time in their relationship.
At the Order meeting four days ago, it had started. His worry manifested as a mere whisper initially, but over the past few days it had transformed into a deafening scream. James thought that the only way he would ever get a moment's reprieve was to shag Lily; after all, what little blood that was left in his brain had only ever permitted him to think of how hot and wet and gloriously tight Lily was. That was before, though. Apparently the rules had changed along the way and he hadn't been informed. While he was making love to her, the voice in his head had shouted over and over again:
Enjoy her warmth while you can because the next time you touch her she'll be cold.
James had begun thrusting into her harder and faster then, more-so than he ever had before, fueled by frustration and desperation. Lily had writhed beneath him, urging him for more. In any other moment, he would have delighted in the fact that his Lily liked it fast and rough—her panting shallow, her moans throaty, his name slipping from her lips as if he could grant her some sort of salvation—but James couldn't enjoy it then, not when he was staring the harsh reality of losing her forever in the face.
When he'd come, James had expected to feel some sort of relief and that familiar sleepiness creep up on him. However, his eyes weren't heavy and his legs itched to move. Unable to bear being in her company any longer, he'd politely excused himself, dressed, and left for the kitchen. Perhaps after that she wouldn't need a Reducto-ed wireless to tell her something was wrong after all.
James leaned against the countertop, listening to water run through the piping from the bath. Lily was getting ready now. At eleven fifty-five she would kiss him goodbye, and at twelve o'clock she would be departing with McKinnon for that fucking Order mission. James swallowed hard. Her first Order mission without him.
Miserably, he glanced at his wand that lay discarded on the counter. Mahogany, eleven inches, pliable, brilliant for Transfiguration. Yeah, fucking Transfiguration. Transfiguration was not Charms. And Lily's natural ability with charms was the reason why she was going to get killed.
He'd begged Dumbledore to let him go in her place—without her knowledge, of course, because he would get an earful for something like that—but Dumbledore had insisted that Lily was the only one who could perform the necessary charm work. Well then he could go too, James had insisted. Dumbledore had rejected the offer—the more people who went, the more danger to everyone involved.
"Your heart is in the right place, James," Dumbledore had said gently, but it had provided little consolation.
Thoughts of helplessness, desperation, and anger bubbled inside James, so much so that he picked up his wand and threw it across the room. It hit the opposite wall, bouncing off and rolling steps away from his feet. In a fury, James turned and kicked one of the cupboard drawers, a loud thud echoing through the house.
Sirius would no doubt tell him he was mental for getting so worked up over this, and Remus would scold him for throwing such a tantrum. Peter would reassure him that everything would be just fine. What they didn't understand was that he needed Lily, needed her like he needed to breathe. They'd been together for less than a year, but they'd already discussed taking things to the next level. Losing Lily would mean losing his future—their future. And regardless of how necessary and minimal-danger a mission was he'd never be comfortable with sending her off with a kiss and a prayer.
Creaks sounded from the steps, announcing Lily's imminent arrival. In retrospect, he probably shouldn't have kicked the cupboard. However, he could hear Lily padding across the living room, so the spare seconds he had remaining were better put to use on coming up with an excuse rather than regretting poor choices.
He forced a smile on his face. "Yeah, love?"
"I heard something. What happened?" she asked, entering the kitchen.
The moment Lily crossed her arms in front of her chest, wet hair plaited and dressed only in her dressing gown, James understood that she didn't want the obvious answer. Not, what had caused the sound, but what caused had this disturbance in him. James didn't know how to answer that question, so he simply remained silent.
Lily waited, pleading to him with her eyes to just open up. He had come to know that look, and it always made him uncomfortable and slightly anxious. James wasn't used to talking about his feelings, and at this point James didn't know if he ever would be. It certainly hadn't become easier over the past year.
The problem with opening up, at least this time, was that he couldn't really tell her everything he wanted to say. Lily, strong and fiercely independent, would not appreciate being told that he felt she needed him to look after her. And maybe she really didn't. But the point was that he wanted to protect her, not because of rubbish gender roles but because she meant more to him than life itself.
"I love you," he said, deciding that it was the only appropriate thing to say.
Softening, Lily embraced him. "Of course you do. And I love you too, James."
James placed a gentle kiss on her forehead and pulled her closer to him. The dread lingered still, but he tried to brush it aside momentarily to ingrain the moment in his memory. She had to be alright.
Resting his cheek against her head, he said, "You know I hate this."
"And you know I'm always going to hate this. And it's never going to get easier. And every morning on days like these I'm going to be like this, filled with worry that this is the last morning I'll ever get to spend with you."
Lily pulled back, tears pooling in her eyes, and cupped his cheeks. "And every night on days like these I'm going to come back to you, James Potter. Do you hear me? Every night."
When he gazed at her, she stood tall and determined to make good on her words, her eyes blazing intensely. Merlin, she was a fighter. But behind all that, he saw the same fears that lived inside him. He wasn't alone in this.
"Promise me?" he asked, clutching her and smoothing her hair.
"You and I were meant to die warm in our bed, and we will. On the same night and in the same moment after we've lived long and happy lives, I promise."
She tried to pull back, but he held her still. James didn't want her to see him like this, with tears in his own eyes. Would they really be as fortunate as Lily thought? Given recent events, it was hard to think that way. But they had to. They couldn't give up. Sighing, James glanced at the clock on the wall, watching the minute hand shifting them closer and closer to goodbye. He couldn't bear to release her from his embrace, wanting to hold her until the very last second she could spare. His senses fought to take every inch of her in—her even breaths, her sweet smelling hair, the warmth of her skin—just in case the worst should happen, and James prayed to Lily's Muggle god that it wouldn't.