Lily looked down from the second floor window at the small people scurrying around the mass of chairs beneath her. People were carrying chairs to the group, and others were arranging them into rows. Sirius put a few of the chairs he had brought out down, leaned against one and wiped the sweat from his brow. He glimpsed Lily looking from the window and waved at her. She gave him a smile and raised her hand in greeting.
Blimey, it was hot. Sweat made her shiver as it trickled down her back and she was having trouble breathing; though she wasn't sure it was the heat that was stifling her.
"Lily," her mother cracked the door and poked her head in, "May I come in, dear?"
"Yes, of course, Mum," she answered with a smile. She pushed the window open and moved toward her mother. She couldn't stop herself from smiling at her mother's grin as she approached.
"You are so beautiful," she gripped Lily's shoulders tightly, an attempt not to wrinkle her dress (Lily thought she could really use a hug more than a dress free of wrinkles). If it was possible, her grin grew even larger, and Lily could see tears growing in her eyes.
"Please don't cry, Mummy," Lily was fighting back tears herself.
Her mother turned away and sniffed loudly. When she turned back, her eyes were red and there was a tissue shoved into her hand. "I'm sorry," she said, leaning in toward her daughter, "It's just, you're all grown up!" She sniffed again and pulled Lily in to kiss her cheek. "You were just a little girl, I swear it was yesterday."
"I'm not that old, Mum. I'm still a teenager, after all."
"But you're getting married! You're a woman, now. You're going to start a family and live a long and happy life with James. I'm so proud of you."
Despite the crippling heat, Lily froze. Her mother pulled away and Lily forced a small smile. "Mum," she asked, "can I have a minute?"
Her mother smiled, "Of course!" and promptly left the room, closing the door behind her.
Lily sat at the vanity where she had, an hour earlier, magically fixed her hair and diligently applied her make up. She took a few deep breaths, and stared at herself in the mirror. Her red hair was half up, the rest of it spilled around her shoulders despite the heat. James liked it that way. She took another breath. James.
James Potter. The boy she had once hated. The man she now loved. The one who was now sitting somewhere in this very house, anxious for her to walk down the aisle in her white dress toward him, waiting to spend the rest of his life with her. Nineteen years old and ready to commit to an eternity. Ready to handle anything that would come their way, he always was. Any strife or tragedy that may befall them, any surprise, James could handle in stride. Lily was not so sure. A family and a long and happy life with James sounded wonderful, but would that happen? Would they have a family? Not now surely, not when there was a war raging and both of them were fighting in it. When the war was over, would they be ready then, or would they be too scarred by the war? Would they both even survive? James could handle these things. He was braver than her.
So brave, in fact that the rest of his life may well not be more than a handful of years, she thought. There was a war going on, after all and James was not one to sit on the sidelines. Nor was she, but James- James was one to actively seek the fight, Lily was one to wait for it to come to her. He was impulsive, she was practical, and usually they balanced each other well, but she could not always stop him and he could not always drag her along and what if one day that ended badly? What if he went off one day against her judgment and left her a widow before twenty? What if she stood back alone to guard and was taken? A tear had escaped her eyes and was rolling down her cheek. A long and happy life she could handle, but a long and lonely life she could not. How could she live without her love? Could he manage without her? Why marry him if he was only going to die and leave her heart shattered? She could not do this. In another time, in another place, with a long life assured them, she would marry him in a heartbeat. But not now. Not like this.
It was suddenly very clear, the haze she had been suffering through all day left and she knew exactly what she was going to do. Very slowly, she rose from her chair, stepped away from the vanity, contemplated leaving a note but figured James would understand, turned on her heal, and appeared several miles away.
The flat which she and James were to share was full of their things; clothing, pictures furniture, and blessedly free of people. But this flat full of future nostalgia was not what she needed. What she needed was air. She left the flat, ignoring the strange looks people were giving the runaway bride. She did not know exactly where she was going until she got there, and then it was so obvious it could never have been anywhere else.
The park that she and James had discovered shortly after purchasing the flat was very pleasant. There were always children playing, birds chirping, and always a nice patch of shade to picnic under. They had visited together many times, on walks or picnic dates. She walked slower as she entered the gates, clearing her head with the fresh air. She wandered aimlessly through the park for a bit, until she approached a bench with a familiar head of messy hair poking up from it.
She stormed to the bench, suddenly furious, ripped the cigarette from his hand and stomped on it. "Waiting for someone?" She asked viciously.
"No one in particular," he responded, aggravatingly calm, "I'm just-"
"Leaving me at the altar?"
"Well I didn't think they'd send you after me, and I wasn't leaving I was just-" Lily chuckled, "What's funny?" James asked.
She took a deep breath, "No one sent me, James."
"Left you at the altar."
He looked at her questioningly for a moment, and then, at the same time, they burst out laughing. Lily sat on the bench next to him, and nudged him playfully, still grinning.
She sighed, "We're quite a pair aren't we?" She turned to look at him. He kept his face looking out.
"Always have been, love." He relented and looked at her, smiling. They stayed that way for a moment, looking at each other and smiling, before the gravity of the situation hit them.
Lily began, "So, what do we do?"
James reached into the pocket of his jacket, pulled out a cigarette, put it to his lips and lit it, inhaling deeply. "I don't know," he shrugged.
He passed the cigarette over to Lily. She took a long drag, and then asked, "Why'd you leave?"
She handed him the cigarette. "I guess I just got to thinking," he took a drag, "forever is a long time, and," he brought the cigarette to his lips once more, "what if you get sick of me?"
"Huh," she responded with a small smile.
"What about you?" he passed her the cigarette.
"Mum came to see me," she brought it to her lips and inhaled, "and she kept going on about how grown up I was, and all I could think was 'I'm still a teenager!' and then I got to thinking about how twenty is awfully young to be a widow."
"I never thought about that."
"I never thought about getting sick of you," he smiled at her comment, "There you were, thinking about how it might be too much time together, and here I am, thinking there will never be enough."
"I guess you never really know how long forever is."
She shook her head, "We could walk out of the park, and get hit by a bus crossing the street, and that would be our forever."
"Twenty whole minutes."
"Twenty glorious minutes."
The cigarette lay forgotten on the ground beneath them. James held Lily's hand, and gave it a gentle squeeze. He looked at her, his eyes huge and sad, "What if it's too long?" he asked. He let go of her hand and cupped her face in both hands, "How am I supposed to feel if you don't love me anymore?"
"What if it's not long enough?" she slowly brought her head closer, "What if I die still wanting more time with you?" Their foreheads touched and their noses were pushed flush against each other, "Because there's no way I'll ever get enough."
"I love you," he whispered, "forever. However long that forever may be."
"I love you too," she whispered back, "For however long forever is, and probably after that too."
He grinned and pulled away from her. "Come on," he grabbed her hand, rose from the bench and pulled her with him.
"Where are we going?" she laughed.
"Well, we don't get to know how long forever is, do we? But we do get to choose who we spend it with, and if you'll have me, there's no one else I'd choose." She smiled. "So even if it's too long or too short at least we'll have had it, right? We love each other, and you look absolutely fantastic," They were both grinning, "So let's go get married."