Disclaimer: I do not own anything affiliated with Harry Potter; it all belongs to the wondrous J.K. Rowling!
It had been cold that spring night, so cold that even with the fire warming the common room I had to put on one of his sweatshirts to ensure that I didn't freeze. I suppose I should have thought of it as a warning of some sorts, but I was so blissfully ignorant then. I was sitting on the couch, hoping that the mug of hot chocolate I was holding would bring back the feeling in my numb fingers. It was about ten and I was patiently waiting for him to come down so we could engage in our weekly 'cuddle sessions' as he liked to call them. I personally thought the name was absolutely ridiculous, but whatever made him happy. He had just come in from a patrol and gone upstairs to change. I wondered what could have been taking him so long because all he usually did was toss his clothes on the floor and pull on his pajamas. Maybe he's brushing his teeth, I thought. Although, I suppose I would have heard the water running…
"You alright up there?" I called.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I'll be down in a minute." he called back. Something in his voice was off. It wasn't full of the love and happiness I could usually hear; it almost sounded… broken. It's probably nothing, I bet he came across some Slytherins and is just tired, I thought in a feeble attempt to reassure myself. I curled my knees up to my chest and took a small sip of my cozy drink, letting my eyes linger on the dancing flames of the fire. Ever since I was little I had always been fascinated with the way a fire would look in a dimly lit room, casting delicate shadows on the walls. My mother always joked that it was because the fire and my hair had the same fiery brightness to it; my hair had been a bright apple red until I was around twelve. Now it had darkened to a deep auburn, a few brighter streaks appearing every once in a while. My eyes had remained as green as ever, shining like emeralds whenever the light caught them right. To him, I was perfect. To him, I wasn't a "walking, talking Christmas tree" in the words of my beloved sister, Petunia. That was one thing that had attracted me to him; he liked me the way I was, I didn't have to change.
As I fished for one of the melting marshmallows floating around in my chocolaty drink, I could hear him beginning to descend the stairs, jumping over the last three as he had done since he was eleven. I looked up and smiled at the almost-man before me, black hair tousled to imperfection and full lips stretched into a wide grin.
"Hey, Lily. I've missed you," he said as he kissed me on the head, plopping himself down next to me and putting my legs in his lap.
"It's only been ten minutes, James." I said teasingly.
"The longest ten minutes of my life!" he shot back playfully, though when I looked at him he seemed different. I searched his hazel eyes, noticing that they appeared almost hollow. The warmth that usually made them glow was merely a flicker. I squinted at him with concern, as if to say "Are you alright?" but he just pulled me closer, my head resting on his chest. We stayed like this for the better part of an hour. Again I got the feeling that something just wasn't right. He wasn't usually this quiet. He would always have some story to share, whether it was about the latest prank he and the boys were planning or a fight he had broken up during his patrol. I reached my hand up and traced his face gently, gazing up at him through my long lashes.
"Is there something wrong, James?" I asked quietly, trying my hardest to keep the worry out of my voice. He stroked my hair, glancing down at me quickly then focusing his gaze on the tapestry above the fireplace.
"Everything's fine Lils. You worry too much." He smiled slightly and I knew that he was hoping I would just believe him like any other girlfriend would. But I wasn't any other girlfriend. I sat up, twisting around so that I was half straddling him. I looped my arms around his neck and looked at him pointedly. He sighed, knowing the battle had been won and to whom the prize was going to. Placing his hands near my hips, he unexpectedly pulled me in for a hug. Normally I wouldn't have minded, but this hug felt weird, and the fact that I couldn't put my finger on why scared me. This hug was filled with a mix of sorrow and passion, and when he pulled back to kiss me, it was the same. Against my will, tears started forming in my eyes.
"James, what's going on? Something's not right; I can feel it." I said, shakily running my fingers through his messy hair. He dipped his head so that he was buried in the crook of my neck. I could feel him taking deep breaths, mumbling something I couldn't quite catch.
"What was that?" I asked. He pulled his head up and looked at me, eyes full of that same sadness.
"I think we should take a break," he said cautiously, slowly, searching me for a reaction. I was numb again. I could only think of one thing:
"I just feel like we rushed into this way too fast. One minute we were good friends, the next we were all over each other, unable to get enough." I stared at him, dumbfounded. What was he trying to say? He sighed again, taking my hands in his. I noticed that mine were ice-cold.
"Lily, I love you, you know I do. I would do anything for you. You mean more to me than any girl ever has."
"Then why?" I pleaded, broken. "I just need to understand, that's all. Please."I whispered that last part, my voice threatening to give.
"I need some time to myself. Some time away. Not just from you, from everyone." By everyone, I knew he meant his friends. "We have a month left here, and once we graduate I'm going abroad. As cheesy as it sounds, I need to find myself again. This war has been hard on me." James' parents, the invincible Potters, had died in battle a month earlier and he was still coping. I respected his wish, I did. What I couldn't comprehend was why I couldn't come with him. As they say, two heads are always better than one. I opened my mouth to ask, but James put a finger to my lips.
"I know what you're going to ask. You're wondering why you can't come with me." I nodded, feeling like a small child again. He chuckled quietly before continuing. "It's for the same reason that I'm not taking the boys. No offense Lily, but you would only distract me. Not in a bad way of course, I love seeing your beautiful face every day. I just wouldn't be able to focus on finding me again without a completely fresh start." He looked at me apologetically then averted his gaze toward the fire. I took my hands from his and put them on either side of his face, forcing him to look at me.
"I understand," I whispered softly. He looked slightly surprised but also grateful. "I may not like it," I continued, "but I understand." I brought his face toward mine, kissing him slowly and lovingly, cherishing every moment. He leaned his forehead against mine.
"Thank you, Lily. You don't know how much this means to me. And I don't want you to think this is the last time we'll be together. I just-"
"Don't know when you'll be seeing me again. Or anyone for that matter, right?" I finished, smiling sadly.
"Yeah, exactly." he said.
I then wrapped him in a hug, not wanting to let go but knowing that I had to.
"I love you, James Potter. So much." I said quietly, kissing him on the forehead. His eyes met mine, glistening slightly with small tears.
"I love you to Lily Evans, always." he replied. I grasped his hand, pulling him up so we could go upstairs to bed. At the entrances to our respective dorms, I hugged him tightly.
"I love you!" I mouthed one more time as I made my way into my room, catching a glimpse of his smile before shutting the door.
That was the last time I saw James Potter for a very long time.
When I woke up, he was gone, as I expected. He had requested his room be switched back to the one that had been his home the last six years, presumably so that he could say goodbye to his friends, his brothers. I realized I was still wearing his sweatshirt. As I brought the soft fabric up to my face, becoming lost in his familiar scent, I vowed right then and there that I would wait for James Potter, no matter how long it took him to come back.
A/N: This story kind of came to me one night as I was listening to my iPod. I feel like my writing career has consisted of mostly one-shots; I'm debating on whether or not I want to make this a chapter story and I think I do. Let me know what you think by posting a review; I'll most likely post the next chapter in a couple of days. Thanks!