It's funny how long you can hide from the inevitable. How long you can look at the ground as you walk instead of facing the damage that's been done around you. Read the stories and pretend they are just that, instead of letting the cold sting of reality get to you. It's funny just how long you can close the gates, thinking they'll protect you from anything, before the real world comes to knock them down for good.
James Potter spends six years in hiding. He lives a life that consists mostly of jokes and immaturity and the entertaining misfortune of others. It's honest and real and in these six years he feels as if he is on top of the world. He is loved and adored and he feels he is certainly doing something right.
Hogwarts is his home. It has been for six years, since the moment he got on that train when he was eleven, innocent and untainted. He knows every corner and every ridge and every hidden alcove and most of all, the castle knows him. It's seen his wide eyes as they took in the Great Hall for the first time, it's felt his exhilaration when he rose from the ground and flew a broom and it's heard his laughter, the crowd as it chanted his name recklessly and it's heard the resolute cry of: "GRYFFINDOR!" as it echoed through the halls.
Hogwarts is his home and now, as war slowly seeps through the cracks in the walls and threatens to poison its students and silence their laughter, he realizes that things are real. He realizes that he can no longer hide. The first victims start falling, and the first threats infiltrate the castle's walls and soon he starts feeling a change in the atmosphere. This realization secretly breaks him as he looks around him and no longer sees smiling faces but faces lined with fear.
Instead of crumbling down under the pressure of war, he decides that he will pretend. And so he goes out of his way to embarrass himself, even prepares to walk around in his underpants if completely necessary, asks Lily Evans out once more (then pretends her rejection does not hurt him, but it does, it's started hurting two years ago) and welcomes the laughter he brings forth. It lands him in detention, gives him a reputation he's only half proud of and ensures Lily Evans will never ever love him the way he loves her. But at least it's not quiet and at least the whole supper isn't dedicated to what the Daily Prophet says and is instead spent on laughing at him.
Sometimes he thinks Remus, Sirius and Peter suspect, but they never speak of it. He knows Sirius agrees with him, whenever a new list of names is released and Sirius reads through them with white hands and flashing eyes. But they never really discuss it, instead wait for one of them to say: "So I have this great idea for a prank," and then, with greatly masked gratitude, they'll get to work.
Lily Evans would never admit it to anyone, but she watches James Potter. She hides her glances well, makes sure her scrutiny goes unnoticed. But she sees him nonetheless and she watches him shift into a whole new person, although he tries so hard not to let it show to anyone. It is war, she is entirely aware of this, and she is also aware that she is muggleborn. She tries not to completely freeze when post comes, when the Daily Prophet drops from the sky, but her heart stops every time and it needs at least fifteen minutes to restart after she's absolutely sure no one she knows is hurt.
She hides it well, no one questions her, and no one looks her way. But she knows she is not the only one, because James Potter freezes as well and his hands tighten around the table top and his eyes darken just the slightest as he fights to keep his smile the way it is. But after he reads the headlines, she can see him try twice as hard and welcomes the rude joke he starts to tell because the students around her laugh desperately. And when James turns to her and says: "Evans, will you go out with me?" She is glad she can refuse. (Although her heart tells her not to, says she could possibly smooth out the lines on his forehead.) She says no and plays along as the boy with the wild hair and the brightest eyes she has ever seen pretends to be wounded and for a second, just for a second, they forget that there is a war raging on outside the castle walls.
"Are you scared?" He asks her in a moment of complete selfishness and curiosity as they sit next to each other in front of the flickering fire. The common room is abandoned, as is the Potions essay in her lap and currently, she is staring at him, wondering where the question comes from and what it has to do with their homework. Ever since the start of seventh year, after he's pinned the Head Boy badge onto his uniform and walked the halls with a new sense of responsibility, they've been getting closer and closer. And now as she sits next to him, so close that he can smell her and feel her red hair brush his arm, he forgets that he's supposed to be strong and asks.
"Are you scared?"
For a moment she seems taken aback but then something changes in her bright green eyes, as she seems to realize that they are talking about The Thing They Don't Talk About. He can see the reluctance as she opens her mouth, but instead of blowing him off completely like he expects her to, she tells him: "Constantly." And the moment the word slips from her lips, James knows he loves this woman with all his heart.
James sighs, relieved, offers her a shaky smile she rushes to answer and breathes out an exhausted: "Me too."
They spend the next hour discussing their fears, talking about the tears they have witnessed and the laughter they have faked and then when finally they have run out of words, their speech slurred with exhaustion, Lily gets up from the sofa they've inhibited, James takes a breath and calls her name.
"Yes?" She looks up and he sees hope in her eyes as if she already knows what he's going to ask, perhaps she does: "Would you maybe want to go to Hogsmeade with me?"
He doesn't know why exactly he feels it's the right time to ask, but with barely concealed wishing, he watches her lips curl and her eyes light up and for a second she seems to lose all the exhaustion her body held as she tells him yes, yes, she would love to.
It takes him about an hour ago to get up and tell his best friends, and by doing so, waking the entire boys dormitory. That night, and the next morning and every following day, James walks the halls and welcomes the gossip and the murmurs as eyes follow him. And then, the day he thought would never come, he gets to hold Lily's hand and kiss her and hold her tightly, they both walk and feel as if they've done their jobs as heads well enough.
Dumbledore smiles at them all the way from across the hall whenever they enter, and the Daily Prophets are forgotten as soon as the two appear, their hands tightly clasped together. Instead of Voldemort this, Death-Eaters that, it's Can you believe it? and Lily Evans and James Potter!.
There's still a war raging on outside these castle's walls and the danger is coming closer every day, ready to knock down the gates that hold them all together. But right now, the absolute unlikeliness of this love and the absolute beauty of it, rises above the noise and perhaps, that's really all they can do.
In the end, it will always be love.
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