I've been reading a lot of Lily/James recently and decided it was worth a try. This will be a miniseries, hopefully hitting 10-20k words. I'm trying to cut down on the angst, but this chapter has a lot of it so bear with me. Also, I'm going to (obviously, because I'm me) make this a romance but hopefully (and likely not, because I'm me) there'll be more to it. Lily and James grew into a tumultuous world and it wouldn't be doing them justice to ignore that.
Anyway, let me know if you think this story is worth continuing and I'll see if I can get another chapter out in decent time!
He's sitting, head bowed, on the stairs and she thinks for a moment that sad people are the most beautiful people of all. His eyes are closed and his mouth forms a grim line and she reveals in his statuesque form until her heart pulls and she wishes for him to smile again.
Now she's done it.
He looks up at her, one sorry glance that makes her eyes prick with tears and she wishes she could take it all back but it had to be said and now she's really made a mess of things.
"I'm so sorry," she whispers but it's too late and not enough. She flees.
They're LilyandJames, or LILYandJAMES, as it sounds when they're having one of their classic battles of wits and lungs. She's the girl of fire and he's smoother than silk and everyone always knew they'd burn too bright, come too close to the sun, and then fall together. But the happy ending everyone's always expected doesn't take into account the pain of the red herring moment, the this-is-almost-it moment, the breaking point. And this is it, the breaking point has arrived and she thinks that she might've accidentally done it, might've actually broken LilyandJames into Lily and James for good.
She told him she could never love him and it sounded like a lie to her ears but not his and he broke a little bit and so did she, fractures along the surface and rifts within.
He falls into bed and into sleep and his heart feels hollow and his veins feel empty. His friends understand and cover for him the next day with muttered excuses that the teachers take as truth. He sleeps for too long and not long enough, wishing the whole time that he could burrow under the covers and never come out. His eyes close for visions of fire and freckles and he would hate her if he could but he can't.
She goes to class the next day, circles that look like bruises under her eyes and a grayness to her skin that had never been there before. Her friends cast her worried glances but she pretends she's fine because she can't fall apart, she can't come undone because that's just not how Lily Evans works and fear of breaking is exactly why she broke him in the first place.
She misses him.
And life goes on. It passes them by as they each live in a silent hell, the kind of hell that kills with long, mundane days and is accompanied by a chill you can feel in your bones. She feels so heavy, like she'll never move again, and no woolen jumpers seem to fix the cold.
He's outside for the first time in what feels like forever because he can't ignore his team, though he would've tried if not for Sirius' bludgeoning him into submission. He gives a halfhearted command to set them up for a drill and no one dares refusing his order because he looks like a gust of wind could carry his mind off forever.
And then he's flying! The wind tears a smile on his face and he forgets why he's waited so long for this form of therapy. His feet can't touch the ground and somehow having his head in the clouds finally feels okay. He ignores the thought of fire for the icy touch of mist across his cheeks. The cold lifts from his bones and being weightless helps his heavy heart. And he realizes in one moment, as if lightening had struck his broom and had given him a quick flash of brilliance, that everything was going to be okay.
"What next, chief?" One of his teammates calls and he dives to the ground, letting out a whoop of joy before demanding a grueling workout from them. "He's back," Sirius says with an ear to ear grin.
"Yeah, I am," James quietly agrees.
She watches him from the window and wipes away a tear. He looks so free and she can't liberate herself from the torture that she forced upon the two of them.
"Why did you do it?" Alice sits next to her, asking slowly after pulling her into a warm and friendly hug. "You like him, maybe even love him, so why'd you tell him to leave you alone?"
"Because," Lily says, "I thought I would be happier without him."
Alice lays a kind hand on her arm, "and are you?"
They lock eyes during Defense Against the Dark Arts and she swears the tension could be cut with a knife and the electricity could shock her into oblivion or at least explain his hair. He runs a self-conscious hand through it and she looks down, blinking back tears.
"I'm so sorry," she whispers.
"Huh?" her partner, a nice Hufflepuff boy, looks up.
"Nothing," she says quickly, glancing over at James once more. He doesn't meet her eyes. In that instant, the smile drops from James' face and she thinks again how beautifully he wears tragedy and then she hates herself for bringing it upon him. "Nothing," she repeats, shaking away the cobwebs that cloud her mind and seem to be suffocating her.
It's Christmas vacation and by some stroke of misfortune or maybe luck, he can't tell which is which at this point, they're both staying at Hogwarts.
"It's only going to be "home" for a little longer," Lily tries to explain to Alexandra Locke.
"My parents are still working, there's no one at home," James tells the same girl, a giggling blonde who never stops batting her eyelashes and twirling her hair around her finger when he's around. She writes a desperate plea home, hoping to stay so she can show him how much better she is than that dratted Lily Evans, but it's to no avail and she gets on the train the very next day.
The Marauders are all staying, each one desperately trying to pretend that they never have to grow up by determining to stay within the four walls of Hogwarts as long as possible. None voice this to any of the others but they all know that it's lurking under the surface of their collective decision to stay and each conversation they have. The end is near, a dramatic sentiment but a true one nonetheless.
It's midnight and she's wandering the halls, thankful that she's the one that would be out catching students and thus will not be caught in her meandering. She finds herself in the kitchens and the house elves make her hot chocolate and let her sit by the fire and warmth blooms in the pit of her stomach as she looks up and he's entering through the portrait hole. He's seen her and she's seen him and rushing out would now be too awkward so they stay glued to their spots. They don't say anything. He sits at a chair on the other side of the room and sips at warm cider until it's late and he heads back to the dorm.
She spends too much time trying to forget, which seems a pity because all she can seem to do is remember. She can't shake the thoughts that flood her mind, the moments that he remembered something small or did something that was wonderfully thoughtless and still somehow kind. When he stood up for her, when he protected her, when he opened doors or teased her with a smile or fetched her cocoa because she was feeling sick. When he said "just you wait, Lily Evans, I'll make you love me yet." And then, the memory that bites her with sharp pangs of sadness, when she said "no you won't. I'll never love you, Potter."
He had never listened before. He had shrugged off her rejections with faraway eyes and a never faltering smile and nothing had ever changed by her denying him until it did. Until he stopped asking for the most part and grew up for the most part and things between them settled into a normal friendship, the kind with witty banter and late-night talks, the kind that made her start feeling something for him that was terribly great and frightening. And then he wasn't up to his old tricks exactly but had somehow sensed her change in perspective and was maybe too flirtatious.
He always came back. That was the thing about James Potter, no matter how poorly she treated him, he always came back and tried again until that one time he didn't and now it was killing her.
The next night she goes down to the kitchens for hot chocolate and he goes down for cider and they see each other so leaving would be too awkward. They sit there, a room apart, until it's late, and then he goes back to the dorm to sleep and she stays awake thinking of the boy who she thought was made of steel but turned out to be constructed of glass.
"Fancy a fly, mate?" Sirius says the next morning and James nods, needing weightlessness to lift his heart and put it back into its rightful place. The sky swallows his thoughts and he's never been more grateful. Sirius loops around him, teasing the boy forward and faster until they're both letting out whoops of joy and pulling dangerous stunts because they're boys, they're SiriusandJames and that's what they do. Sirius doesn't give voice to his relief, but he's happy his friend is back.
Stiff muscles make it too difficult to sleep, so James wanders down the kitchens that night and takes his spot on the stool across the room from the fire and then, like clockwork, she stumbles through the door an hour later. She looks surprised that he's there but she can't retreat now so she gets her cocoa and sits by the fire and surprises herself by crying.
"I'm so sorry," she says loud enough that he hears it and quiet enough that he believes it.
Maybe if things were different, he'd tell her now that this was just a test for their love and she'd still fall for him one day and they'd have a picket fence, two kids, and a dog, but he doesn't say that because things are the way they are. Instead he replies, "I am too," and she wishes things were different for a brief moment but they're not. The words feel like a bridge made of cobwebs between them and she knows it'll collapse with any weight at all, but it still feels like something and she's so very thankful.
They walk back to the common room together, saying nothing but also feeling no bitterness. He pauses before retreating up the boys' stairs but can't think of the right words. She almost says "thank you" but can't seem to move her lips so they both stay silent.
Morning comes with its pure, white light and she looks out her window to see snow falling softly. With a girlish shriek and a childish squeal, she wakes up Alice and Emmeline, both also staying to take advantage of the last winter at Hogwarts, and the three bundle themselves up in jumpers and scarves and run down the stairs to the open expanse of the Quidditch field.
Sirius roughly pulls James, Peter, and Remus from their beds, shouting something about snow, and they boys go bounding down the stairs to the perfect place for a snowball fight- the Quidditch field.
"Who's that?" Alice asks, shielding her eyes from the winter sun and looking towards four figures coming their way.
"No clue," Lily replies, hitting her friend with a snowball. Emmeline takes advantage of Alice's distraction as well, throwing another snowball her way but missing by a narrow margin. The targeted girl screams a laugh and returns fire.
"Hey ladies," Sirius greets them, looking like trouble with a smirk and a not-so-secret store of snowballs hidden in a floating line behind him. He glances over at James, worried his friend won't react well to the presence of a certain redhead, but the boy is too busy talking to Remus to express any hesitation and Sirius takes this as permission to engage in war with the girls, launching snowball after snowball at them until they're pleading false mercy, ready to form an attack of their own with the cover of surprise.
The girls build a fort, holding their wands in their half-frozen fingers and directing piles of snow to form shelter from the vicious invading army. The boys cry "not fair!" but grin and sneak around to dump snow on the girls. Emmeline tears apart from the pack, screaming a war cry and hurdling snowballs at the shocked Marauders. Lily creeps around the other side, taking advantage of the boys' redirection of attention to toss snow at Peter.
"Oi!" Sirius calls to her over Peters shrieks, "going for Pete? That's low, real low." She sticks her tongue out in response, laughing at his expression. "Thought you were the mature one, Ms. Head Girl," he says and she grins before retreating back to the fort for safety.
"Here's what we do," Emmeline tells the two other girls, "set your eyes on a boy and get him, each of us pick one and whoever's done first can get the last one." She thinks for a moment, "Peter should probably be the leftover, he couldn't stop us if he tried. Let's show these boys what we're made of." Alice and Lily nod and Emmeline smiles broadly, "on three, ready? One, two," the girls crawl to different exits of the fort in readiness, "THREE!"
Emmeline streaks toward Sirius, ignoring the snowballs he throws to instead tackle him to the ground. Alice runs at Remus, blushing slightly as he embraces her in an effort to pin her still. Lily, the slowest of her friends, looks at Peter and the last first priority target left, James. "Bloody hell, of course it would be him," she mutters. Their eyes meet and the tension is palpable. He knows what she's supposed to do, as does she, and they both know she's hesitating because of their history.
Something in him snaps and damn, he misses that girl. He runs at her, gently tackling her to the ground and rolling to avoid hurting her on impact. "Gotcha," he whispers and if things were different, he would lean in for a kiss but they're not, and just like he refrained over a warm mug of cider, he stays still and silent now.
She smirks and he's too distracted by the snowflakes that are stuck to her eyelashes to realize that she's performed a silent spell that has a load of snow levitating just over him. "Oh do you?" She asks innocently before dropping it.
He screams and she laughs and Alice stops fighting with Remus to stare. "I knew they'd get over that stupid fight," he tells her and she nods, relief evident. "Though I was worried about him for a bit."
"They're going to be fine, aren't they?" she asks the open air.
"They're going to be Lily and James, they'll be as fine as they can be. I suspect they'll still be bickering when they're an old married couple." Remus responds.
She smiles, "I suppose so."
It's a battle of not-so-epic proportions, a bunch of children shivering and screaming and throwing bullets that fall apart on contact. The group falls into a heap for a rest and Alice gives voice to the similarities between their game and the terrifying outside world. The girls nod with the gravity of the situation and the boys' eyes blaze as they trip over their words, swearing they'll fix the world's wrongs with their unflinching bravery while the girls try not to think of the current death toll and how impossible it can be to stop a machine in motion.
"Whatever happens," Remus says and they go silent to listen, "I'm not bringing kids into this war."
"We are kids," Alice says, tears prickling her eyes, "and the war will come to us no matter what we wish for."
Remus shakes his head slowly at her misunderstanding, "no, I mean I'm not going to have kids or anything, I don't want anyone else to have to live like we do."
"That's all," Lily swallows thickly, "years away. The war will be over by the time we're ready for that."
Peter looks at her, breaking his meek silence to whisper "how can you be so sure?" Everyone looks at him, his question echoing in all their minds.
She doesn't have an answer. The weight of the world falls off their shoulders as they give a collective shrug and they escape to the Great Hall for food and the chance to forget for just a little while longer. Their home is to be shed in a matter of months and none of them think they are ready for the danger of the real world, no matter how frequently and loudly they claim they are. They are kids, fragile and innocent and still shining, the grime of the "real world" not yet covering them and forcing them to become cynics. James finds himself unable shake a morbid notion that Lily was wrong- the war was not going to be over until they were dead and buried, but the frown doesn't stay on his lips for long because he also can't shake the notion that no matter how hard she tries to deny it, there's electricity between them. The first time he met the redhead he had known what he still knows now, she'll fall in love with him one day. And when she does, he silently vows, he'll catch her with open arms and they'll live happily ever after, or something like that.
"What're you smiling about?" Sirius asks, punching him in the shoulder.
"Nothing," James says with a small grin.
Sirius sighs overdramatically, "she's still got you good, doesn't she?"
The girl in question turns back, halfway up the stairs into the building and calls back, "are you coming or what?" and they run to catch up.